Stirring piece wins Balco prize

Clare Valley artist Maria Holst Salomonsen took out the 2021 Balco Balaklava Art Prize for their piece ‘Running on empty’, a felt and wire sculpture depicting a dam drying up, at a presentation held at the Balaklava Courthouse Gallery on Sunday.

Maria’s work was picked out of 96 artworks exhibited from 58 artists ranging in age from five-years-old to over 90.

The Clare artist crafted the felt from her sheep’s wool, used natural dyes and bordered the fabric with rusty wire from the dairy farm that used to exist on her property to create the drought-themed piece.

“I watched the dam water go down and as it dries, there’s less water and the colours change,” Maria said.

“So, if you imagine you’re a bird and you’re seeing it from above you see how the water gradually disappears and the colour changes and cracks develop in the earth.

“I made the shape as a raindrop to be reminiscent of the water that was there once but is not there anymore.”

Judge for the 31st Balco Balaklava Art Prize Natalie Ziedas was raised on a farm in Grace Plains and attended Balaklava High School. She worked in education for two decades and currently serving as curriculum leader of the Creative Arts at Westminster School.

“This abstract and well-crafted piece made me reflect on that precious resource that is constantly on the minds of farmers, rain, and how a lack of it impacts the environment and seasons,” Natalie shared about the winning piece.

Adhering to strict COVID-19 restrictions, the capacity of the gathering was limited to 30 people and eager art enthusiasts patiently waited outside to listen to the award winners.

Gallery patron mayor Rodney Reid couldn’t be present after a trip interstate led to two weeks’ quarantine.

“This competition began with the aim of encouraging regional artists and, while it has

evolved and certainly grown, it continues to encourage artists, both established and emerging, to show their work in a small friendly gallery in a category that suits their art form,” gallery president Jo May said at the opening.

Saddleworth’s Natalie Lewcock was awarded the Wakefield Regional Council Art Prize for Country Life or Landscape for their work ‘Old farm gate’.

The Lockwood family took out two prizes on the day, with Amanda winning the Outstanding Portrait Prize for a depiction of her son Ezra. Her other 11-year-old son Josiah came up tops in the Junior Student Art Prize for ‘The Coffee Pot Going Over Woolshed Flat Bridge’.

‘Cherries in a Mug’ saw Glenda Michael win the Most Outstanding Still Life Prize, while Burra’s Julie Lloyd was commended for ‘The Teapot’.

Margaret D. Walsh of Salter Springs was awarded the Photography Prize for their poignant shot that sent a strong message on men’s emotional wellbeing, ‘Men Do(n’t) cry/Jars of tears’.

Mount Barker resident Trevor Hancox’s watercolour art ‘Superb Blue Fairy Wrens’ was the Works on Paper prizewinner while Wokurna’s Alison Broughton-Wright took out the Sculpture Prize for their recycled metal piece ‘A View Inside the Hedge’.

Tia Barr, 15, was awarded the Senior Student Art Prize for their graphite pencil self-portrait and the Hangers’ Prize, sponsored by Alick Barr, was awarded to Kapunda’s Pauline Morrison for oil painting ‘Just Country’.  Major sponsor Balco CEO Rob Lawson was honoured to be involved with the art prize and spoke about the importance of supporting regional arts as it can often be overshadowed by sport.

The exhibition will be on display at the Balaklava Courthouse Gallery until August 29 and visitors can vote for the $100 People’s Choice Award until its conclusion.