Prestigious art prize returns to Bribie

Published 5:00am 26 May 2024

Prestigious art prize returns to Bribie
Words by Ashleigh Howarth
Above: Jean Bennett's piece titled Nestled won the Matthew Flinders Art Prize in 2022. 

The hugely popular Matthew Flinders Art Prize will return to Bribie Island this July, with plenty of artists from across the region and beyond set to enter their finest pieces in a bid to win the prestigious competition.

Now in its 26th year, the art prize is open to all artists and mediums (except video), with all submissions going on display at the Matthew Flinders Art Gallery at the Bribie Island Community Arts Centre.

A gala opening night will be held to celebrate this year’s winners on July 12, with the exhibition open to the public from July 13 to August 2.

One person who is looking forward to this year’s event is mixed media artist Jean Bennett, who has won the coveted art prize two years running.

What is even more incredible is the fact she only entered the art prize for the first time in 2022.

Her artwork titled Nestled was announced as the winner that year, followed by Hope and Despair in 2023.

Jean loves to test how far the materials will go in every piece she makes, which is why she loves working with fibre, stitch, resin, clay, encaustic wax, inks and charcoal.

Originally from the United Kingdom and now living in Maleny on the Sunshine Coast, Jean says it was a series of life-changing events that guided her towards the art prize.

“Art has always been a part of my life. I trained to become an art therapist back in the UK, but it wasn’t until I moved to Australia and had a health scare that I made art my full-time passion,” Jean says.

“I moved here to be with my partner, who is Australian, and within a year I was having a lot of heart issues. I was sent to hospital and doctors put five stents in my chest.”

It was during her long recovery that Jean came across the Matthew Flinders Art Prize.

“At first I was really tentative about entering because I didn’t know what the art scene was like in Australia,” Jean says.

“I didn’t know any artists here, I didn’t know what kind of work others would be submitting, or what they (the judges) were looking for.

“In the end, I just decided to go for it.

“When I saw the other incredible artworks, the thought didn’t even cross my mind that I could win, so when I heard the judges calling my name, I was completely stunned.

“When I entered the following year and found out I had won again, I was flabbergasted.”

Winning the prize has helped open some doors for Jean and allowed her to showcase her work to different audiences.

“To win the Matthew Flinders Art Prize two years in a row is really quite special, especially when there are different people who judge the awards each year,” Jean says.

“Both of those judges have kept in touch and have been supportive of me and my work.

“Coming off the back of winning this competition I had an exhibition in Brisbane earlier this year, won Best in Show at the Mary Valley Art Festival, and won the Artist’s Choice Peer Award at Sculpture on the Edge.”

While Jean is hoping to secure her third win this year, she does have some words of advice for other artists who are thinking about entering.

“You have nothing to lose and everything to gain,” Jean says.

“Sometimes it’s about taking a risk and dipping your toe in the water and allowing things to happen.

“Just by entering you will get some really amazing feedback and become part of an amazing and artistic community.”

Above: Maleny artist Jean Bennett with her 2023 winning piece Hope and Despair

Register now

Artists have until June 17 to register for the 2024 Matthew Flinders Art Prize.

More than $9000 in prize money is up for grabs. First prize is $5000 with second prize winning $2000. There are also two Highly Commended prizes of $500, plus a $500 People’s Choice prize and a $500 prize for BICAS Members.

There will also be a Matty Prize awarded by the Matthew Flinders Art Prize Hanging Team. The prize is $100 cash and $100 in Bribie Surf Club vouchers.

The Bribie Island Community Arts Centre is located at 191 Sunderland Drive Banksia Beach.

For more information, visit the Bribie Island Community Arts Centre website.

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