RAW: Waterhouse Natural History Art Exhibition – SA Museum

Sally Wickes - All In One

In its ninth year, the Waterhouse Natural History Art Prize is Australia’s richest in the category. Named after the SA Museum’s first curator, Frederick George Waterhouse, this year’s competition attracted over 800 entries from which 103 finalists have been chosen in the four categories of painting, works on paper and sculpture and objects. The fourth category is for Younger artists (16-25 years of age) in any of the aforementioned categories.

As with previous years, the exhibition attracts a diversity of styles that matches the world it attempts to portray. Also, as with past years, the five person judging panel has not confined its credit to particular methods or movements.

Though there are the usual statements about man’s abuse of the natural world around us, there are surprisingly few works that speak to natural events of the past year or so, with the exceptions being Camilla Tadich’s Twenty Four Days After, a haunting vision of woodlands wiped out in the Victorian bush fires of two years ago, and Lisa Tekell’s Flood on the Blanchetown Flats which possibly warranted more signs of resulting life than a couple of faraway birds traversing the landscape.

Craftsmen’s depictions of native fauna don’t seem to much attract judges’ attention but are worth viewing, especially Nick Blowers fearsome Badge Huntsman, Lucy McEachern’s Australian Pelican (in bronze) and Colin Rogers’ aluminium Ichneumon

Gladdy Kemarre - Anwekety (Bush Plum)


Those that speak more to our interaction with nature, not necessarily in the political climate change context, seemed to do well. Gladdy Kemarre’s Anwekety (Bush Plum) is a dot painting that depicts a dreaming story and takes us above the earth to view a shimmering, sweeping expanse of desert terrain that both seems to team with life, yet is of a place that most of us would regard as inert.

Lyn Wood’s Fish out of Water depicts scraps of melaleuca bark snagged on flood plain debris done in paper. At first glance it looks fish carcases lined up or perhaps very large used condoms but its empathetic qualities quickly draw you in. Sally Wickes All In One is a sculpture in ceramic, steel and velvet representing water droplets falling and landing at various stages of flight and impact (though you could be excused to think they were of milk) that strongly speaks of the essence of the hydrological cycle and our own role in sustaining it no matter our desire to merely consume.

As always there is plenty to enjoy and marvel at and also draw furious debate when it comes to the judges selections but no matter, the Waterhouse is an important part of Adelaide’s cultural calendar and ought to be explored.

Leave a Reply