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Maree Clarke wins 2023 Melbourne Prize for Urban Sculpture

Phoebe Blogg -

Last week, proud Mutti Mutti/Yorta Yorta and Boon Wurrung/Wemba Wemba woman, Maree Clarke, won the $60,000 Melbourne Prize for Urban Sculpture for 2023.

Known as a pivotal figure in the Victorian Indigenous art scene since the 1990s, Clarke has emerged as a leader, helping to nurture and promote the diversity of contemporary Southeast Aboriginal artists.

She has been instrumental in the reclamation of southeast Australian Aboriginal art practices, reviving elements of Aboriginal culture that were lost – or lying dormant.

Ms Clarke's public art, sculpture, painting, and multimedia installations of painting and photography also further explore the customary ceremonies, rituals and language of her ancestors.

Despite growing up in the northwest of Victoria, the talented creative has been practising art and living in Melbourne for the past three decades. Having exhibited both nationally and internationally, Clarke has secured herself as a prominent First Nations creative.

"My art is about regenerating cultural practices, making people aware of, you know, our culture, and that we are a really strong culture, and that we haven't lost anything; I think they've just been, some of these practises have been laying dormant for a while," said Ms Clarke.

Maree Clarke Ancestral Memory 2019. (Image: Tom Ross)

With the 2023 judging panel including several respected creatives, Clarke and the other entrants were judged by some of the industry's best. The 2023 judging panel featured arts sector professionals such as Emily Floyd (artist), Kate Ten Buuren (Senior Curator, First Nations, Melbourne Arts Precinct) and Katharina Prugger (Curator of Contemporary Art at the National Gallery of Victoria).

"The judges had an extremely challenging task this year due to the impressive calibre of entries," said The Trust's founder and executive director, Simon Warrender OAM.

Supported by Major Patron, The Vera Moore Foundation and Fed Square this year entrants were asked to provide information on how the prize funds would be used on clearly defined initiative/s or project/s that will develop the entrant's practice and further build on their previous professional work.

An Augmented Reality Finalists' Exhibition showcasing the four finalists was also on show at Foundation Events Partner, Fed Square. This strived to highlight the work of finalists Kent Morris, Vipoo Srivilasa and Joy Zou.

"The prize has been well received this year by the local artist community and I want to thank all entrants and congratulate the four esteemed finalists and the winner," said Melbourne Prize Trust chairman, Janine Kirk AO.

Maree Clarke. (Image: Vivien Anderson Gallery)

"Our 2023 Melbourne Prize winner is a talented artist who has made a significant contribution to Melbourne's vibrant art scene. I would also like to congratulate all the finalists. This important prize recognises exceptional skill and we look forward to seeing what they achieve in the future," said Melbourne lord mayor Sally Capp.

Since its inception, the annual Melbourne Prize has operated in a three-year cycle, including the Melbourne Prize for Urban Sculpture (2023), the Melbourne Prize for Literature (2024) and the Melbourne Prize for Music (2025).

The annual Melbourne Prize has also made available more than $2 million in prizes, residencies, equipment grants and an annual public exhibition and presentation at Fed Square to showcase Victorian writers, sculptors and musicians.

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