Blak Douglas’ Silent Cop 2021 wins Still at Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery

Blak Douglas’ winning work – ‘Silent Cop 2021’.

 

DUNGHUTTI artist Blak Douglas is the winner of the $30,000 Still: National Still Life Award 2021, for his sculpture ‘Silent Cop 2021’, a memorial to black deaths in custody.

Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery awarded its biennial prize in a virtual ceremony on Saturday night, just an hour after NSW lockdown was declared.

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Guest judge, Elizabeth Ann Macgregor OBE, the Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia made the announcement.

To a screen of clapping hands, Blak Douglas, speaking live from Redfern, acknowledged his Gumbaynggirr cousins, as a neighbouring cousin from the Dunghutti nation on the NSW Mid-North Coast.

Known for his culturally and politically charged paintings, Blak said, “I stepped outside of painting to create this piece because we are devoid of monuments, devoid of sculptures, of representations of first nations people across the continent.

“The artwork speaks about the abhorrent fact that we still have black deaths in custody and the Indigenous incarceration rate.

“What is a silent cop? Where I grew up in Western Sydney these things were in the middle of intersections wherever you went, to control traffic flow.”

Blak combined this symbol of police presence with a traditional spear and refashioned the two objects together in bronze.

It’s a powerful statement to heighten the public’s attention to the serious issues of Indigenous deaths in custody, dispossession and loss.

At the spear’s base Douglas adapted the PayPal logo into ‘PayBak’.

“This is the pivotal point of the artwork,” explained Douglas.

“You’ve got this spear that fits within that silent cop hat on the floor.”

Five highly commended works reflect the diverse mediums and geographic spread of Still 2021, from Steve Bush NSW, Michael Cook QLD, Rose Rigley QLD, Lucy Roleff VIC and Emma Rani-Hodges ACT.

A 3D Virtual Tour launching by September allows anyone to visit Still 2021 online including all 59 finalist artworks, the catalogue, pricing and voting for the $5,000 People’s Choice Award.

Meanwhile a selection of Still works will be explored on Still Sundays with Mary McGillivray every Sunday of the exhibition on TikTok and IGTV (Instagram TV).

Still: National Still Life Award 2021 at Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery until 23 October.

Latest updates are available on the gallery’s Facebook page or visit www.coffsharbour.nsw.gov.au/still.

 

By Andrea FERRARI

 

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