Two celebrated figures of Australian visual arts have received the Australia Council’s 2004 Visual Arts/Craft Emeritus Award and Medal. Prolific photographer Jeff Carter and eminent art historian Bernard Smith were honoured today in a tribute delivered by Senator Rod Kemp, Minister for the Arts and Sport.
‘These remarkable individuals epitomise the contribution artists make not only to the creative industries but to the national psyche,’ said Senator Kemp.
The annual Visual Arts/Craft Emeritus Award and Medal honour the achievements of artists and advocates who have made outstanding and lifelong contributions to the arts in Australia.
The career of itinerant, self-taught photographer Jeff Carter spans half a century. It has been estimated that he has produced some 55,000 negatives since he took to the road in 1946 as a young man inspired by his heroes Steinbeck and Hemingway.
Armed with a typewriter and a 1A folding Kodak camera, he set about on a journey across the country that would see him document the people, places and life of a changing Australia. In doing so, he has produced one of this country’s most remarkable and historically significant photographic archives.
As his self-titled calling as photographer to the ‘poor and unknown’ suggests, Carter is a humanist whose early articles and iconic black and white images, like Tobacco Road and The Drover’s Wife, exposed an appreciation of the difficulties Australians outside major cities faced everyday.
Before art historian, lecturer and critic Bernard Smith posed nude at the age of 85 for a portrait entered in the Archibald Prize, he set the benchmark for the history of art in Australia with seminal publications, such as Place, Taste and Tradition, European Vision and the South Pacific and Australian Painting.
The focus of Smith’s life has been to develop the community’s interest in, and knowledge of, Australian artistic traditions. He caused a sensation with The Antipodean Manifesto, a criticism of abstract art that was signed by a group of artists including Charles Blackman, Arthur Boyd, Clifton Pugh and John Perceval. His recent work includes Noel Counihan, Modernism’s History and Imagining the Antipodes.
Senator Rod Kemp presented Jeff Carter and Bernard Smith with the Visual Arts/Craft Emeritus Award and Medal respectively at a gathering of artists and curators at NGV International, Melbourne. Jeff Carter’s first monograph on his work will be launched by New Holland Press in April. To cooincide with the book launch, Sandra Byron Gallery will host a retrospective of his work from 16 April.