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Julia deVille's taxidermy chicks win 2016 Waterhouse Prize

Arts & Culture

A taxidermy sculpture by Julia deVille which seeks to provoke discussion about the use of factory-farmed eggs in food products has won the revamped Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize.

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Titled Neapolitan Bonbonaparte, the sculpture features three chicks sitting in an antique silver ladle. The chicks are dyed in colours representing the strawberry, chocolate and vanilla flavours in Neapolitan ice-cream, one of myriad commercial food products containing eggs.

“It’s my light-hearted way of raising discussion about a serious topic,” the Melbourne-based artist tells InDaily.

The work was announced this morning as the winner of the open category of the 2016 Waterhouse Prize, which is run by the South Australian Museum and carries $30,000 in prize money. It was selected from among 51 finalists, with the competition attracting more than 672 entries across both the open and emerging sections.

DeVille, a multi-award-winning artist whose taxidermy art was exhibited in the 2014 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art, is a vegan who is concerned with the ethical treatment of animals and works only with creatures that have died of natural causes.

While there has been much debate recently about the labelling of eggs, she says wants to raise awareness of products made with factory-farmed eggs, which she believes should also be declared in labelling.

“Most people these days want to buy ethical products and actively seek out free-range eggs and organic or biodynamic products,” she says. “But there are a lot of products like ice-cream and wine and mayonnaise that contain eggs and they don’t have to be labelled [as factory-farmed].”

She has described Neapolitan Bonbonaparte as “a comment on industrialised animal agriculture”.

“Chickens and pigs are some of the worst-treated animals … they are kept in such inhumane closures and whatever life they do have is miserable.”

In their comments, the Waterhouse Prize judges said deVille opened a “challenging dialogue” about today’s consumer society – “the difference between appearance and what lies beneath, between perceived truth and the actual truth”.

“This duality is depicted in a work that is both beautiful and grotesque, which attracts whilst at the same time repels.”

The $10,000 Emerging Artist prize was won by Dan Power with G(RAZED), a work featuring pen and ink drawings depicting endangered flora and fauna – including the night parrot, Leadbeater’s possum and native orchids – on a bull’s skull.

Described as a “confronting piece” by the judges, it is intended as a comment on the way in which land use and agricultural practices can erode habitats and affect species diversity.

G(RAZED) - pen and ink on a bull’s skull, by Dan Power.

G(RAZED) – pen and ink on a bull’s skull, by Dan Power.

The SA Museum made a number of changes to the Waterhouse Prize ahead of this year’s competitions. Category restrictions were removed to open it up to all forms of visual fine art except photography, the competition was made biennial and the value of the top prize was reduced from $50,000 to $30,000 – a move justified by the fact that the museum will no longer automatically acquire the winning work.

In addition to the open and emerging categories, a further $5000 will be awarded through both the People’s Choice Award and a new Scientists’ Choice Award.

Finalists’ work to be exhibited at the SA Museum from June 10 until July 31.

A selection of 2016 Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize finalists

By Barbie Kjar.

Shrinking Reef, by Barbie Kjar (Open category).

By Klaus Gutowski.

Icarus, by Klaus Gutowski (Open).

By Simon Hogan.

Lingka rockhole, by Simon Hogan (Open).

By Emilie Patteson.

Turning of the Tides, by Emilie Patteson (Emerging artist).

By Abdul Rahman Abdullah.

Fremantle Waters, by Abdul Rahman Abdullah (Open).

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