Australia’s most celebrated Aboriginal ceramicist, Dr Thancoupie Gloria Fletcher AO (Thancoupie), and director of Asialink Arts Program, Alison Carroll, have been honoured with the 2006 Australia Council for the Arts’ Visual Arts Emeritus Award and the Visual Arts Emeritus Medal respectively.
The 2006 Visual Arts Emeritus Award and Medal were presented at a ceremony in Sydney today in recognition of the outstanding achievements of these two eminent individuals.
Thancoupie was awarded the $40,000 Visual Arts Emeritus Award for her unparalleled career as an Indigenous artist, teacher, and community leader.
Alison Carroll was awarded the $10,000 Visual Arts Emeritus Medal for her outstanding contribution to the development of the Australian cultural sector.
Australia Council chief executive officer Kathy Keele said the awards recognised both Thancoupie and Ms Carroll’s lifelong contributions to Australian visual arts.
‘Both Thancoupie and Ms Carroll have had an immense impact on the Australian arts community that, as a result, has echoed throughout the world. The Australia Council is incredibly proud to honour them with these significant awards,’ Ms Keele said.
Thancoupie, a Thanaquith Elder of the Weipa region, is the most established Indigenous ceramicist in Australia, and was the first Aboriginal artist to study ceramics at tertiary level, graduating from East Sydney Technical College in the early 1970s. Her extraordinary career that began in a small township in North Queensland has now commanded attention nationally and around the world.
Thancoupie presented her latest works in a solo exhibition, Thanakupi – a gatherer’s view, at the CQgallery, Craft Queensland, in July 2006, coinciding with Verge, the 11th National Ceramics Conference also held in Brisbane. Thancoupie has held 16 solo exhibitions and numerous group shows both nationally and internationally.
In 1986, Thancoupie was appointed Australian Cultural Commissioner to the Bienal de S„o Paulo and was awarded an honorary doctorate by Griffith University for her achievements and services to Aboriginal arts. In 2004 she was awarded an Order of Australia and in 2005 an honorary doctorate by James Cook University – making her the highest decorated Indigenous artist in Australia.
‘Thancoupie is a pioneer of Indigenous art. Her artwork and involvement in the Aboriginal community have inspired generations of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Her art has been an important vehicle to communicate her Indigenous culture to people from all walks of life,’ Ms Keele said.
The recipient of the Visual Arts Emeritus Medal, Alison Carroll, is director of the arts program at the Asialink Centre, a non-academic department of The University of Melbourne that promotes public understanding of the countries of Asia and creates links with Asian counterparts.
Ms Carroll initiated the creation of the arts program in 1991, and has developed it from a small one-person area to an organisation that involves hundreds of people working together from around Australia and other countries in the region. The program’s mission is to encourage and enable Australian artists and curators to work with colleagues in the Asian region providing creative opportunities, increasing audiences and a greater cultural understanding.
‘Ms Carroll’s incredible work over the past 20 years has bridged a gap between Asian and Australian visual arts communities with outstanding results,’ Ms Keele added.
According to Professor Ted Snell, Chairman of the Australia Council’s Visual Arts Board both Thancoupie and Alison Carroll will join a long list of notable Australian visual art luminaries.
‘The Visual Arts Emeritus Awards are among Australia’s most prestigious individual arts awards, recognising outstanding contributions to the sector. We are thrilled to add such respected figures of the arts community to our list of esteemed award winners,’ he said.
Past award recipients include painter John Wolseley, photographer Jeff Carter, sculptor and installation artist Joan Grounds, glass artist Klaus Moje. Previous medal recipients include curator Robert Bell, art historian Bernard Smith, arts advocate Tamara Winikoff, and curator Grace Cochrane.