UNSW Master of Fine Arts graduate and staff member Kuba Dorabialski has been recognised with the 2017 John Fries Award for his video installation titled Invocation Trilogy #1: Floor Dance of Lenin’s Resurrection (2017), which explores a range of themes from architecture to literature. Dorabialski who describes his practice as an attempt to dig into “the thin and uncertain border between nostalgia and sentimentality, especially for the recent Soviet past" was born in Wrocław, Poland.

Barayuwa Munuŋgurr's work was highly commended. From Yirrkala in the Northern Territory, Barayuwa Munuŋgurr's works are titled Ngaraka (bones of the whale) at Yarrinya Maypiny 2017, and Napunda (snake/lightning/cloud/clapsticks), 2017. Barayuwa works primarily in sculpture and painting, he is a skilled maker of yiḏaki, gaḻpu (spear-throwers), gara (spears) and biḻma (clap-sticks). His work depicts his own Djapu clan designs as well as his mother’s Munyuku clan designs. Extending on traditional designs through his own interpretation, Barayuwa’s work shows an experimental approach characteristic of a younger generation of artists now working at Buku-Larrnggay Mulka.

An initative of the Copyright Agency | Viscopy and now in its eighth edition, the non-acquisitive, annual John Fries Award is presented to early-career visual artists from Australia and New Zealand with a value of $10,000. The award was conceived to assist the development of up-and-coming artists’ professional careers, and to connect them to a larger artistic community.

From a field of more than 600 entries Dorabialski was selected by a panel of five guest judges—curator and interdisciplinary artist Consuelo Cavaniglia; senior curator and programs manager at Wellington’s Dowse Art Museum, Melanie Oliver; curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Clothilde Bullen; artist Fiona Lowry, who has won multiple awards; and award committee chairperson Kath Fries

Consuelo Cavaniglia, who is also the 2017 award guest curator, commented on the interdisciplinary selection of works, which include text-based art, graphic design and new media: “This year’s finalists are drawn from a broad cross-section of early-career artists with diverse and engaging practices; the interdisciplinary nature of these is very exciting. Although there is no single curatorial theme, many of the finalists’ works engages with questions of cultural identity and consideration on landscape. Conversations with artists about new commissions for the award are currently underway, with many artists electing to expand their modes of practice in experimental ways.”

Previous recipients of the award include Eric Demetriou, Ben Ward, Bridie Lunney, Jess Olivieri and Hayley Forward, Jacob Leary, Sanne Mestrom and Hannah Bertram.