Rodney Pople

Port Arthur, 2012

oil & archival pigment on linen

90 x 134cm

From the artist

It’s a place occupied by the ghosts of past events —the violent displacement of the Pydairrerme people and the incarceration of Britain’s reprobate convicts. The vision of romantic sandstone ruins serves to soften the wounds of the site’s dark past. Those wounds were brutally re-opened with the 1996 massacre of 35 people by Martin Bryant, adding another layer of anguish to this damaged landscape.

Judges Comments

When you look closely at the history of Port Arthur, and its representation as a marker in Colonial history, you have this dream-like figure of Martin Bryant hovering in the landscape. It is an extraordinarily brave painting for dealing with what happened in Port Arthur in 1996 – one of the first pieces of artwork that has really dealt very directly with what happened at that time. It often takes many years before one can start reflecting back on such a dramatic history. The painting is at first, quite deceptive. As you walk toward it, you feel as if you are going to enter some romantic vision of Tasmania and then the flip side of it is uncovered as you get closer. As you look into it, it starts to look out at you and raises some questions for you as the viewer. It is a very classical landscape and deserves to be afforded time. It is powerful, evocative; no one could accuse Pople's work of being gratuitous and it is deserving of its first prize.

Judges: Doug Hall AM; Jan Senbergs Artist, Victoria; & Dr Brigita Ozolins, Artist & Academic, UTAS

Artist background

Born Launceston 1952. Lives and works in Sydney. Exhibiting since the 1970s. Winner of Paddington Art Prize 2016 and Sulman 2008. Has been selected for the Blake, Archibald, and Wynne art prizes on many occasions. FInalist in Doug Moran National Portrait Prize 2016. Represented in many major public collections.

Represented by Despard Gallery, Hobart & Australian Galleries, Sydney/Melbourne