30 November 2023

Local Aboriginal artists celebrated as winners announced for the inaugural Cyril Knox Art Prize

Local Aboriginal artist, Ethan Towns, has claimed top honours in the first ever Cyril Knox Art Prize, taking home first place and $5,000 in prize money for his piece, The Shape of Changing. Local artists Jason Brown, Casey Lamb & Tully Renaud were also recognised for their outstanding work, with Jason edging out tough competition to claim the $1,500 People’s Choice Award and Casey and Tully winners of the $500 Junior Prize.

The inaugural Cyril Knox Art Prize exhibition ran from 18-24 November at Narrabri’s The Crossing Theatre, showcasing a range of impressive entries from local Aboriginal artists in line with this year’s NAIDOC theme, ‘For Our Elders.’

The free event saw hundreds of visitors attend over the course of the week to experience the unique artworks and diverse blend of styles, colours and subjects on display.

Whitehaven Coal partnered with Narrabri Shire Council to create the Cyril Knox Art Prize and deliver the exhibition, which is named in honour of Cyril Knox, a well-known Narrabri local and exceptionally talented Aboriginal artist.

Whitehaven’s Manager of Aboriginal Community Relations, Bob Sutherland, was thrilled to see so many people coming along to the exhibition to support local artists.

“This exhibition was all about bringing people together to celebrate Cyril Knox’s legacy, while providing an opportunity for up and coming Aboriginal artists in our community,” added Mr Sutherland.

“Cyril had a huge impact on the local community that extended far beyond his artwork. It’s been fantastic to see the next generation of homegrown artists coming through and we were delighted to provide a platform to showcase their talents.

“At Whitehaven, we’re committed to supporting our local communities and we’re excited to see this Art Prize continue to grow in years to come.

“We’d like to thank everyone who came along to support the exhibition and voted for their favourite artworks – the judging panel had a tough task to select a winner and the People’s Choice Award was hotly contested.

“We’re also grateful to the Knox family for their support and we thank the many talented artists in our area for sharing their fantastic entries with the local community.”

Members of the Knox family were part of the judging panel for the awards. After lengthy deliberations, the panel awarded First Prize to Ethan Towns’ The Shape of Changing, which focused on depicting an Indigenous elder by a campfire, clutching a paintbrush, with a lone stroke in the sky symbolising their self-created history. The smoke signified the transformation of the region, from wildlife to iconic landmarks, including its identity as a cotton capital, thriving farming, sportiest town, leader in PhDs per capita, and hub of research and energy production.

The $1,500 People’s Choice Award was presented to Jason Brown, whose artwork Gunagala (sky) Galamaay (brothers) topped the community votes tally after making quite the impression on the exhibition’s attendees.

The winners of the Junior Prize, Tully Renaud & Casey Lamb, are just 9 years old and clearly have a bright future. A key focus of the Cyril Knox Art Prize is uncovering and showcasing young Aboriginal talent, and there’s no doubt we’ll be seeing more of the young artists in years to come.

The Cyril Knox Art Prize expands on Whitehaven’s commitments under its Stretch Reconciliation Action Plan, which has a particular focus on the areas the company can make a substantial and sustainable difference, including health and wellbeing, education, employment and procurement.

Whitehaven takes a holistic and long-term approach to its work helping to empower local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and the Cyril Knox Art Prize will be an important part of this for years to come.

The Cyril Knox Art Prize will be a biennial award and Whitehaven is already eagerly awaiting the event’s return in 2025.

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