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Science and Art, 12 Years of the Waterhouse Prize

Home > Adelaide > Art | Environment | Exhibitions | Free | Museums
by Jenny Esots (subscribe)
A freelance writer and traveller who likes to explore the spiritual, literary and hidden gems of Adelaide and beyond.
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A retrospective look at the world of science and art
The Waterhouse prize was launched on the 25th of August 2002. It is a premier event for artists to celebrate science and the natural world. The Waterhouse brief is described as the expression of being human and to document and observe what is seen in nature. But what came first science or art? Can these two strange bedfellows combine to produce something worthwhile?

Science and Art, 12 Years of the Waterhouse Prize
Science and Art, 12 Years of the Waterhouse Prize


Science and Art brings together pieces collected over the twelve year history of the Waterhouse prize. It has and continues to be presented and staged at the South Australian Museum. The 2015 collection is a streamlined version of past events. More starkly staged with a minimalist edge. Each collected piece has a large space, but this seems to potentiate the effect of making each artwork feel a bit lost. The cohesion of a fully fledged Waterhouse prize exhibition is lacking.

River Stones  Artist Nikki Main. Photo Jenny Esots
River Stones Artist Nikki Main. Photo Jenny Esots


However the standard of the collected artwork is still very high. The river stones of artist Nikki Main glisten and glow. The Lyrebird in the projection preens and prances. The Bandicoot Playground of Michael McWilliams is depicted as an ideal. The context being that their habitat is under threat by feral species. This is the connection of the natural world and what scientific enquiry can unfold.

Bandicoot Playground by Michael McWilliams - photo by Jenny Esots
Bandicoot Playground by Michael McWilliams - photo by Jenny Esots


This is clearly an interim exhibition in 2015. A review of the prize has been undertaken with new initiatives announced for 2016. These include having international judges included to enhance the prestige of the prize. Specific categories and restrictions on media will be removed. The prize will be biennial. A scientists' award will be introduced to reinforce the link between science and nature. The competition will no longer be acquisitive, allowing the winning piece to be purchased by the public.

Science and Art, 12 Years of the Waterhouse Prize
Science and Art, 12 Years of the Waterhouse Prize


The standard of artwork in the Waterhouse Prize has always been high. As the South Australian Museum looks ahead with the new format it is hoped the standard will be maintained for 2016 and beyond. This is a retrospective year, which seems to highlight that we are missing a fully realised exhibition. South Australia has led the way with the linking of science and art. May this review and revamp give it a revitalised flavour and new vigor going forward.
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When: Until the 19th of July 2015
Where: South Australian Museum, North Terrace Adelaide
Cost: Free
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