After spending long hours on a John Deere, trailing along behind a header during the wheat harvest, Harold Mawson decided to turn the view from his cab into art.
Sundowner on the Chaser Bin has been a work in progress for the past few months and the young Riverina farmworker said he still could not believe that he had won the open category at the Ardlethan Art Prize.
“I was gobsmacked,” Harold said with a laugh, speaking over the phone from his tractor cab.
“If you look at the video on YouTube of them announcing the winners, you see I looked like one of those laughing clowns at the show!
“I was very, very shocked and humbled, and it was very interesting to see the way that the judges reacted to the painting and the way they viewed it with all these different meanings.”
Harold grew up on a property outside Euroa in Victoria and said he’d always had an interest in art.
“When I was really young I used to sit in Dad’s office and I’d go through the Outback magazines and I’d copy images or just do little sketches and things and then at school, I just found that I was able to do it and I’ve always enjoyed it,” he said.
After taking up painting with acrylics during lockdown, Harold continued with art through to year 12 before moving to Ardlethan to take a job with Warakirri Cropping last year.
The inspiration for his award-winning work came from a series of late-afternoon photos.
“As the sun was going down and I was driving along in the tractor, I’d take a photo looking out over the chaser bin to send to my parents just to show them what I’m doing,” he explained.
“It started getting more and more inspirational and I thought I might just have a crack at painting it in my free time after work.”
CSU art historian Dr Sam Bowker was one of the three judges on the night and said it was the idea of “historical fidelity” that caught his eye.
“It’s a time capsule of a painting. He is creating a scene for the future about the present,” he explained.
“This is a very carefully observed scene of contemporary farming life and it is a scene that is familiar to many people in the Riverina.
“Also, by using the windscreen as a frame, he’s thinking about the way in which we artificially shape a scene and using all the elements of that to construct a reason for the composition being as constrained as it is.”
In the wake of the win, it was straight back to that view from the tractor for Harold, but he’s hoping to squeeze in some more time for painting.
“I have lots of different ideas of what to paint, but it’s just about finding the time,” he said, adding that life on the farm remained an inspiration.
“I wouldn’t mind doing a sowing one, maybe with the tractor coming over a hill and sunset in the background, and maybe some scenes from back home.”
In the meantime, he’s loving his first job in the Riverina and has launched an Instagram account for his art.