31 May 2024

A big 'Wynne' for Wagga artist named a finalist in Australia's most prestigious landscape prize

| Chris Roe
Join the conversation
Wynne Prize finalist Juanita McLauchlan

Wynne Prize finalist Juanita McLauchlan and her work ‘mudhay burrugarrbuu- bula/ Possum Magpie Also‘ Photo: Jack of Hearts Studio/Art Gallery of NSW.

Wagga artist Juanita McLauchlan can now add ‘Wynne Prize finalist’ to her growing list of accomplishments, after making the shortlist for one of the nation’s most prestigious landscape prizes.

The Wynne and Sulman art prizes are announced each year alongside the Archibald Prize for portraiture.

Juanita’s piece ‘mudhay burrugarrbuu- bula / Possum Magpie Also’ was named among 41 landscape works in the 2024 exhibition which will be launched at the NSW Art Gallery on 7 June.

READ ALSO Artist Kim Baker shares a slice of life on a Wagga farm in her first solo exhibition

The $50,000 Wynne Prize “celebrates the best landscape painting of Australian scenery or figurative sculpture” and the Gamilaraay artist said she was overwhelmed to be listed alongside the nation’s best.

“I feel like I have already won just by being a finalist with these amazing people that I’ve idolised and look up to their work, and I’m from out here in regional NSW,” Juanita said with a laugh.

“To be displayed in the Gallery of NSW and having your work accepted and acknowledged alongside other truly wonderful artists, I feel like the sky’s the limit and I guess you just don’t know what you’re capable of.”

Juanita explains her work to a group of visiting children at the Wagga Wagga Art Gallery.

Juanita explains her work to a group of visiting children at the Wagga Wagga Art Gallery. Photo: Supplied.

With a background in printmaking, Juanita now creates textile works and body adornments made from recycled woollen blankets and ethically sourced possum skins.

mudhay burrugarrbuu- bula/ Possum Magpie Also includes ‘contact prints’ with impressions of local Riverina flora chemically transferred to the blanket.

Juanita explained that it is both a celebration of Wiradjuri Country where she lives and works, and a very personal story of family.

“We had a visit from over 20 magpies when our daughter was born,” she explained.

“They sung at the back door when we brought her home, a welcome we had never experienced. She is almost four and the magpies run up to us on the street to this day.”

READ ALSO Gags galore in store as all-star Wagga Comedy Fest line-up awaits

Juanita’s work combines elements of her intertwined European and Aboriginal heritage, and for the first time in the 127-year history of the Wynne Prize, the majority of the finalists are Indigenous.

“I think that things are starting to change and people are learning the truth and understanding what this country has been built on,” Juanita reflected.

“People are recognising these beautiful artworks and the stories that they tell about Country and culture are valued, and that for me is more important than anything.”

Juanita said she was grateful for the love and support of the local Wiradjuri elders and the arts community.

“From the team I work with here at the Wagga TAFE to Eastern Riverina Arts and Dr Lee Anne Hall at the Wagga Art Gallery, it’s not just me and my family’s journey, it’s everyone who has been part of our work or visited my work, and I appreciate that,” she said.

“It’s important that we all support each other and share that success and experience and help other artists to find those opportunities because we all grow stronger together.

“Just because we live regionally, we aren’t forgotten about. We just do things differently, and I think more resourcefully, and I think now is the time to share our narratives.”

Dr Hall agreed that Juanita’s success was a win for all regional artists and a significant moment for Wagga.

“The gallery is proud to champion the work of Juanita, helping to raise her profile and navigate this next step in her art practice and career,” Dr Hall said.

The winner of the 2024 Wynne Prize will be announced on Friday 7 June and the finalists’ work will be on display at the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney from 8 June – 8 September.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

Daily Digest

Want the best Riverina news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riverina stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.