Congratulations to Monica Rohan on winning the 2023 Elaine Bermingham National Watercolour Prize in Landscape Painting for her work Crossing.
Judge Sam Cranston aptly remarked, “Monica Rohan’s exquisitely executed watercolour combines vibrant colour and intricate pattern to create a whimsical and compelling landscape. Her work offers a momentary glimpse into an uncanny narrative that grabs the viewer in a powerful way, despite its intimate scale.” Professor Beck Davis, Director of the Queensland College of Art and Design, Griffith University, presented Monica with this prestigious award, along with a $20,000 prize generously donated by Elaine Bermingham.
Monica’s paintings combine figurative, still-life and landscape imagery to create surreal scenes that reflect experiences of anxiety and uncertainty about our relationship to natural environments. In Crossing a curtain of patterned, domestic textiles conceals a figure whose arms reach from behind, hovering impossibly above Little Dandahra Creek in the Gibraltar Range. Against the shifting reflections of the water and the dense forest beyond, the fabrics flatten into abstract designs that hinder and distract the eye, drawing attention to the way painting mediates our experience of the landscape. This tension between the textiles and what they conceal transforms the landscape into unambiguous, uncanny space that oscillates between anxiety and calm.
Monica is represented by Jan Murphy Gallery in Brisbane and Sophie Gannon Gallery in Melbourne. Since graduating from the Queensland College of Art with Honours in 2011, Rohan’s work has attracted considerable interest. She has been a finalist in numerous major prizes including the Archibald Prize (2020 and 2016), the Dobell Drawing Prize (2019), Sunshine Coast Art Prize (2018) and the Sulman Prize (2017.)
Warm congratulations to all this year’s finalists! The Elaine Bermingham National Watercolour Prize Finalists Exhibition commences today, inviting the public to witness the creativity of 43 artists hailing from various corners of the country. This unique triennial art event celebrates excellence and ingenuity within the watercolour medium.
The exhibition will be showcased in the Grey Street, Project, and Webb Galleries at 226 Grey Street, South Bank, 4101, running until Thursday, January 11, 2024.
Image: Monica Rohan, Crossing, 2023, 29.7 x 21cm, watercolour on paper. Courtesy of the artist/Jan Murphy Gallery/Sophie Gannon Gallery.