Glover Prize means more than landscape

The Glover Prize has evolved over 15 years to be more than what the original curators could have envisaged.

The prize, named after colonial artist John Glover, has become one of Australia's most significant awards for landscape painting.

At the beginning, entries were almost a by-the-book depiction of Tasmanian landscape. Since then, the submissions have evolved almost hand-in-hand with Tasmania’s identity.

In 2012 the Glover Prize and Tasmania were challenged when a controversial piece of art was chosen as the winner.  The provocative painting depicts one of Tasmania’s darkest hours: The 1996 Port Arthur massacre where 35 people were shot dead by Martin Bryant.  

The work, by Launceston-born artist Rodney Pople, has Bryant clutching an AK-47 automatic rifle. The work was entitled Port Arthur. At the award night in 2012, Pople said his painting was about the depth of beauty and tragedy at Port Arthur.

“What Bryant did was a heinous horror, but it's reality,” he said at the time.

“We should be proud of [Port Arthur], despite the complexities of history and reality.”

Doug Hall, who was one of three judges who unanimously chose Pople’s piece as the winner, said the art should not have been controversial.

“… there was no forethought by any of us that people could misconstrue it as in any way glorifying Bryant,” he sad at the time.

Despite this, many people found the artwork controversial. But that’s the beauty of art. It is meant to provoke emotion. 

In hindsight, it is now accepted that landscape is more than just pretty scenery. Pople and the Glover Prize have helped to shape this view. The Prize can also tell narratives of political, historic, social and even future landscapes.

John Glover, who the prize is named after, changed his painting style when he arrived in Van Diemen’s Land in 1831. The quality of his painting changed in response to the new landscape around him.

Glover’s annual namesake will continue to evolve to reflect the ever-changing Tasmanian landscape.

We can expect the Prize to advance even more in coming years with this year’s event now open to digital entries. The exhibition is a chance for Tasmanians to view our state through the eyes of both local artists and those beyond our state.


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