Kuba Dorabialski wins John Fries Award 2017

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Sydney-based artist Kuba Dorabialski has won the annual John Fries Award for early-career artists from Australia and New Zealand with his video work, Invocation Trilogy #1: Floor Dance of Lenin’s Resurrection, 2017.

Dorabialski was selected for the $10,000 non-acquisitive award from a field of 12 finalists. The other finalists were: Amanda Williams, Angela Tiatia, Anwar Young, Barayuwa Munuggurr, Ben Leslie, Bridget Reweti, Claudia Nicholson, Ella Sutherland, Faye d’Evie, Kathy Ramsey, and Tina Havelock Stevens.

Dorabialski left his native Poland at the age of two and much of his work is infused with nostalgia for the Soviet era Eastern Bloc. However, the artist is well aware that the socialist ideal was never fully realised. Of his winning work, Invocation Trilogy #1, he says, “In this particular work there is a kind of negotiation between what was lost and what can be learned.” The artist also points out that the past can never really be revisited, “You can go to the place, he says, “but you can’t go to the time.” 

Dorabialski’s video work has high production values and a definite cinematic style. When asked if he is interested in moving away from video art and into film he explains, “The third part of my Invocation Trilogy will be much more like a feature film in length and narrative arc, but I still want to show it in the gallery context.”

This year the prize was judged by Consuelo Cavaniglia, artist and guest curator of the 2017 John Fries Award; Melanie Oliver from The Dowse Art Museum, Wellington; Clothilde Bullen, curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art at the MCA; artist Fiona Lowry; and Kath Fries, artist and daughter of the late John Fries.

Cavaniglia said of Dorabialski’s Invocation Trilogy #1, “It is humorous and serious at the same time. The work makes references across disciplines from architecture and film to literature and theatre. It is an ambitious work that shows commitment and dedication as well as risk-taking.”

Barayuwa Munuggurr’s work was highly commended. Works by all 12 finalists can be seen in the John Fries Award 2017 Finalists Exhibition.

John Fries Award 2017 Finalists Exhibition
UNSW Galleries
12 August – 2 September

Tracey Clement