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The Australia Council for the Arts will tonight recognise the outstanding contributions of visual artist Professor Fiona Foley and curator Julie Ewington by presenting them with the 2013 Visual Arts Awards at the Brisbane Powerhouse.

Australia Council Chief Executive Officer Tony Grybowski and members of the visual arts community will celebrate the achievements of both women at the ceremony and artist Richard Bell will be the master of ceremonies.

Mr Grybowski said both Queensland artist Professor Fiona Foley and Queensland curator, writer and broadcaster Julie Ewington had made substantial contributions to the visual arts sector for many years and inspired other artists and arts professionals in Australia and overseas.

It is important that we acknowledge the pioneering work of artists and arts professionals like Fiona and Julie, who make Australian visual arts such a vibrant and stimulating artform, Mr Grybowski said.

Recipients of the Visual Arts Awards are nominated by their peers. One of Fiona’s nominators was Queensland artist Victoria Reichelt and Julie’s nominators included South Australian artist Catherine Truman.

Ms Reichelt said Fiona was a leading Queensland artist with numerous professional achievements, both nationally and internationally.

She is also a fearless advocate for Indigenous political and social equality, Ms Reichelt said.

Ms Truman said Julie was an eminent writer, curator and broadcaster and a passionate champion of contemporary art and arts practice in Australia.

Over many years she has enthusiastically encouraged generations of emerging, mid-career and established artists, directly engaging in the complexities of individual practices and communicating her extraordinary depth of understanding to a wider national and international audience, Ms Truman said.

Professor Foley noted the first Visual Arts Award was given in 1987 and since then four recipients had been Aboriginal, with the first Aboriginal artist, Paddy Lilipiyana, winning in 1992.

I am honoured to be in such esteemed company, such as Tracey Moffatt, Fiona Hall, Inge King and many more, Professor Foley said.

This is great recognition for the work I have done to date.

Ms Ewington said she was taken completely by surprise when she opened the letter announcing she had won the award.

This award is especially wonderful because it is coming from my peers, Ms Ewington said.

It will sustain and encourage me for my future work.

As part of the awards the Australia Council commissions an artist to create commemorative brooches for each recipient, this year designed by Sydney jeweller and artist Emma Fielden.

The Visual Arts Awards acknowledge and honour the exceptional achievements of an Australian artist and an arts professional who have made an outstanding contribution to the development of Australian art.

Past winners include Tracey Moffatt and Juliana Enberg in 2012 and Fiona Hall and Ron Radford in 2011.


Fiona Foley was born in Maryborough, Queensland in 1964. She completed a Certificate of Arts at the East Sydney Technical College in 1983, during which she was a visiting student to St Martins School of Art, London. From 1984 to 1986 she undertook a Bachelor of Visual Arts at Sydney College of the Arts, and in 1987 she completed a Diploma of Education at the Sydney Institute of Education, Sydney University. Throughout her career Fiona has taken an active role promoting Indigenous identity and was one of the co-founders of the Boomali Aboriginal Artists Co-operative, Sydney in 1987. From 2003 to 2009 she was Adjunct Professor at Queensland College of Art, Griffith University. In 2004, Foley completed an International Studio and Curatorial Program residency in New York, and has since also been resident artist at the University of Wollongong (2006), Sydney College of the Arts (2006) and Redgate Gallery, Beijing (2010). In 2010, Foley created a new body of work for the 17th Biennale of Sydney. In 2011 she was appointed Adjunct Professor at the University of Queensland and she continues to work on projects, including sculptural commissions and installations, in Australia and overseas.


Julie Ewington is a writer, curator and broadcaster. She has worked at the Queensland Art Gallery since 1997 and in 2008 she was appointed its Head of Australian Art. She specialises in contemporary Australian art across all media and contemporary art from Southeast Asia. Julie has held curatorial positions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, and the Canberra School of Art Gallery. For many years she taught art history in Australian universities and in 1999-2000 was Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Cross-Cultural Research, Australian National University.


Emma Fielden is a Sydney based jeweller and artist whose drawing practice closely informs her jewellery pieces. She uses hand engraving techniques to create works made of repetitively built up form, intricate surface patterns and line-work, mostly using silver and gold. Emma has exhibited her work regularly since 2006 in Australia and abroad, was a finalist in the 2012 National Contemporary Jewellery Award and winner of the prestigious Buda Australian Decorative and Fine Arts Award in 2009. She is a recipient of an Australia Council New Work Grant and will use that support to prepare for a solo exhibition in November this year.


Richard Bell was born in the Queensland town of Charleville and is a member of the Kamilaroi, Kooma, Jiman and Gurang Gurang communities. A previous winner of the National Telstra Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award, he is a nationally recognised artist represented in major collections in Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Richard is the recipient of a 2013 Australia Council Creative Australia Fellowship, which assisted Richard’s participation in the 5th Moscow Biennale, as well as the creation of new work, which was shown at Artspace and in upcoming exhibitions.

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