Ryan Lee wins Frankston Arts Centre Open Exhibition Prize 2021

Published on 12 August 2021

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A scene from Ryan Lee’s ‘Wonnarua’, which won top honours in the Frankston Arts Centre Open Exhibition Competition 2021.


Ryan Lee has taken out top honours in the Frankston Arts Centre Open Exhibition Competition 2021 with his stunning video artwork ‘Wonnarua’.

Frankston City Council Mayor Kris Bolam said unfortunately, due to the snap lockdown, the Opening Event for the Centre’s Open Exhibition Prize 2021 had to be cancelled. 

Mayor Bolam said: “This was a difficult decision that had to be made in the interests of public health and in line with current State Government Covid-19 restrictions.

“The Open Exhibition Competition is a major annual arts program delivered by Frankston City Council, which provides artists with the opportunity to address a chosen theme through their choice of medium.

“Whether it is a painting, sculpture, photography, video or textile – this year’s artists have explored the theme Change – inspired by pivotal global events, the theme was open to broad artistic interpretation and could be approached from a personal, social, historical, aesthetic or climatic perspective.

“We acknowledge and thank everyone who has been involved in the exhibition competition, including the artists and Guest Judge Simon Lawrie, who is Curator at McClelland Sculpture Park+Gallery and selected this year’s winner.

“While we couldn’t be together for the Opening Event, we’re thrilled to announce that Simon has selected the winner for this year’s Open Exhibition Competition as Ryan Lee for his video artwork ‘Wonnarua’.”

In selecting Ryan’s artwork, Mr Lawrie said: “Wonnarua captures well how things change at different speeds and often out of step with each other – while threatened by the industrial exploitation of traditional lands by non-Indigenous inhabitants, the cultural identity of the Wonnarua Nation remains strong.”

He also added: “This is a powerful and sensitive meditation on two seemingly irreconcilable approaches to land and Country.”

Ryan’s prize includes an exhibition and Opening Event at Frankston Arts Centre in 2022 and a cash prize of $1,000.

Ryan said: “I'm absolutely chuffed to see Wonnarua selected as the winner for the 2021 Frankston Arts Centre Open Exhibition. It was amazing to hear curator Simon Lawrie's reflections on the moving image work and to see that the intended messages are being taken on board. I'm looking forward to sharing these messages further when exhibiting the work next year at the Frankston Arts Centre.” 

Ryan describes Wonnarua as a contemplative moving image installation work, adding that it aims to provoke discussion around themes of Indigenous ways of living in juxtaposition with western settler-state system's unsustainable, damaging ways of using stolen lands.

“The video diptych contrasts living portraits of five Aboriginal people from the Wonnarua Nation with drone shots of the vast Muswellbrook coal mines, which are situated in the heart of the Wonnarua Nation,” Ryan said.

Mayor Bolam congratulated all the creatives and artists whose compelling artworks were accepted for the Frankston Arts Centre Open Exhibition Competition 2021 and considered for the prize.

“The theme of ‘Change’ is certainly apt, as our team has pivoted quickly to create an online presentation of the Open Exhibition for you to enjoy at home. Please visit https://www.youtube.com/user/FrankstonArtsCentre to view,” Mayor Bolam said.

Most of the artworks are for sale and enquiries regarding purchases can be made to Milla Dakovic via email at milla.dakovic@frankston.vic.gov.au

Council Manager Arts and Culture, Andrew Moon, said: “When we have certainty around the re-opening date for Frankston Arts Centre and Cube 37 Gallery, we will be in touch again so patrons can plan a visit to Cube 37 to explore the incredible works exhibited in this annual exhibition. 

Mr Moon said: “We understand cancellations are disappointing, and we hope patrons are able to visit the Frankston Arts Centre Open Exhibition when we re-open. This exhibition will be on display in Cube 37 until Friday 3 September.”

For more information about Ryan Lee, please visit https://www.ryanandrewlee.com/

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