INTERNATIONAL NEWS: The Waterhouse Prize celebrates 12 years of SciArt at the South Australian Museum
By Elsie Percival
Museums have changed immensely over time—from places that collect, preserve and display as many natural and cultural objects as possible, to places that inspire visitors and communities to engage with knowledge and consider current ethical questions. The Waterhouse Natural History Art Prize can be seen as a product of this change–an exhibition that does not just display objects, but provides a space to creatively explore natural objects and ideas via artwork, as well as involving people from all over Australia.
"Breathe," Harriet Swartzrock, 2014, 55cm x 90cm x 31cm, blown tinted glass: these glass plant pieces spell out the word ‘breathe’–drawing on the connection between our dependence on plants for oxygen, and plants’ ability to process carbon dioxide for energy. The glassblowing technique tenderly accentuates this relationship to pay homage to the plant kingdom.
The Waterhouse Prize is a Sci-Art competition and exhibition run by the South Australian Museum. Every year hundreds of applicants from around Australia send in artworks that celebrate elements of the natural world, draw attention to environmental degradation and encourage people to question the way they interact with their natural surroundings. Standout works are then selected from a diverse collection of pieces based on skill, concept or evocation to travel the country–inspiring the link between art and science.
This year was the competition's 12th birthday, and to celebrate, the South Australian Museum is staging an exhibition that showcases winning pieces of over a decade of phenomenal sci-art. The exhibition runs from the 5th of June until the 19th of July, and marks a significant change in the nature of the prize. The exhibition will now be judged by renowned international judges, with the prize for the overall winner standing at $30,000 and other monetary prizes available for highly commended pieces.
The Waterhouse Prize will now accept a varied range of artistic mediums (with exception to photography)–broadening the scope of artistic exploration into the natural sciences and increasing ways that visitors can interact with ideas and dialogue. The prize has become a biennial to focus more energy and resources into each exhibition.
There will now be a ’scientists’ award, aimed at reinforcing the link between science and art. Winning artworks can be purchased by the public–an advantage for collectors and artists alike.
Applications for next year are open in January 2016. For now, enjoy a rich collection of Sci-Art–drenched in stories, scientific questioning and elucidated secrets of nature–at the South Australian Museum, or online.