Tom Polo Winner, Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship

Tom Polo Winner

Tom Polo All she needs 2014 Acrylic and vinyl acrylic on canvas, Courtesy of Station Gallery, Melbourne. Private Collection, Sydney

On Thursday 13th of August I had the pleasure of attending the announcement of the winner of the Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship for 2015.

Eighty entries were received from around Australia with seven finalists being selected.

As part of the criteria, they must submit a body of ten works with a minimum of five paintings.

After a short address by Art Gallery N.S.W deputy director Suhanya Raffel who said “it is of great importance that the Gallery, as one of Australia’s leading art museums, actively fosters the careers of young Australian artists”, we were introduced to this years worthy recipient, Tom Polo.

Held at the Brett Whiteley Studio, located at 2 Raper Street Surry Hills, New South Wales, this fantastic gallery is open to the public and a must visit for tourists and locals alike.

It’s a wonderful space, and through the generosity of JP Morgan, it is free to all who visit.

It had been a while since I had visited and I must say, it is a joyful space that embodies the feeling of life and creativity.

It is alive and vibrant with Brett’s memory.

Tom Polo

Tom Polo. Photo: Zan Wimberley

The collections change constantly due to an amazing archive of work, which is really a treat. It’s as though the artist is still in residence.

Whiteley, one of the most prominent artists of his time, and still today, produced some of this countries most amazing artworks.

So it is fitting that a scholarship in the name of painting, his most favoured medium, is available to a local artist.

This scholarship, created by Mrs Beryl Whiteley in 1999, is open to painters between the ages of 20 to 30 years of age.

As Brett’s mother, she witnessed first hand the effect that travel had on her son’s work.

The winner is awarded $30,000 and a three month residency at Cite’ Internationale des Arts in Paris, France.

This is an incredible opportunity for an artist to grow and learn. In 1959 Brett Whiteley was awarded the Italian Government Travelling Art Scholarship.

To this day we can see the profound influence that experiencing the world had on Whiteley, and indeed the young winning artists that follow in his footsteps.

Fiona Lowry

Archibald Prize winner Fiona Lowry

This year’s judges were 2014 Archibald prize winner Fiona Lowry and Head of Australian Art at the Art Gallery of N.S.W Wayne Tunnicliffe.

Every year there is a different artist judge, which I personally think is great.

This means that fresh eyes are cast over the entrants every time.

Tom Polo born in 1985, lives and works in western Sydney. He has exhibited since 2007 in both solo and group shows.

In 2014 he was named the winner of the Redlands Konica Minolta Emerging Art Prize and in 2011 he took out top honours for the Art & Australia-Credit Suisse Private Banking Contemporary Art Award.

His work, “All she needs” is truly beautiful. I love the use of colour, and there is an emotional depth to this piece.

“This scholarship will afford me dedicated time and space to focus on my practice and its development, while surrounded by the wealth of culture and influence Paris offers.

I look forward to undertaking research at some of France’s most significant collection’s and galleries and it’s exciting that I’ll have the opportunity to extend this to the rest of Europe after my residency too” Polo said.

When I asked him he said he was “particularly looking forward to Berlin and London, but was excited to explore all that Paris had to offer”.

The_Decision_Makers (Hands Held High)

The Decision Makers (Hands Held High), 2015, acrylic and vinyl on clayboard, 36 x 28 cm, courtesy Artist

Said Fiona Lowry “Tom’s work illuminates anxieties and failures in a most beautiful way. His practice is well developed and he has a deep knowledge of what he wants to talk about as an artist.”

She also went on to comment “this direction and understanding will only grow further through spending time in the cultural melting pot that is Paris”.

This year the judges awarded a highly commended acknowledgment to twenty two year old Jordan Richardson for his work “Dane holding Emily’s tongue”.

This was made even more exciting by the surprise, and definitely unplanned announcement by Wendy Whiteley to gift $5000 to Richardson. As I said to Wendy later “it was a fabulous gesture and one that had us all feeling the love.”

“Good, good” she said. She expressed her feelings that being highly commended is all well and fine, but leaves one feeling a little flat with just the title.”Why not have a prize” she exclaimed, and, I had to agree.

Speaking to Jordan, I could see how moved and generally in shock he was at Wendy’s generosity. “This will help me finish my degree” he said. I suggested maybe three times is a charm, after all this was his second year of becoming a finalist.

Wendy Whiteley

Wendy Whiteley

What ever this young man decides, his future is definitely bright. As it is for other finalists Clara Adolphs, Sally Anderson, Natasha Bieniek, Annalisa Ferraris and Matilda Julian, who all have excellent works on display. If you are in the area their works are currently showing until September 13th 2015.

We have to thank people like Mrs Beryl Whiteley and Wendy Whiteley, who make it possible for sometimes the near impossible to happen.

To support important new talent in such a way that it can be nurtured and developed to it’s full potential is such a gift in itself, but financial support in this realm can be paramount.

After all, this was the opportunity afforded to Brett Whiteley in 1960 when judged by Sir Russell Drysdale at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. We know where that took him, and the incredible body of work he produced.

As Beryl said in 2004 “The lovely thing is that they don’t just spend three months in Paris.

They all go on, to Spain, Madrid, London, New York. They work very hard; they don’t miss a trick”

What touched me, taking in the Whiteley works after learning of his scholarship and travels, is that while Brett’s world and work expanded, he never lost the “Australian feel”. His use of colour and love of our native flora and fauna was only enhanced by his overseas experience.

And you can bet Tom Polo won’t miss a trick on his painterly adventures.

Jo Bayley, The Culture Concept Circle, 2015

For further information about the Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship, click here

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