The prestigious Woollahra Small Sculpture Prize was won by Australian National University PhD candidate Thorhammer Beowulf last night. his artwork, The Carbon Credit Machine collected the $10,000 acquisitive award.
Judges of this year's prize were arts patron Guido Belgiorno-Nettis, trustee of the Art Gallery of NSW and director of the Transfield Foundation, Natalie Wilson, the assistant curator of Australian Art at the Art Gallery of NSW, and Professor Janice Reid, the vice-chancellor of the University of Western Sydney and trustee of the Art Gallery of NSW.
Mr Belgiorno-Nettis said The Carbon Credit Machine had been unanimously chosen by the judges.
''This intriguing work is both current in concept and exquisite in its realisation,'' he said. ''The viewer is led on a circuitous journey through the labyrinthine apparatus, only to realise they end up where they began. Nature is the only thing that remains. The process is entirely redundant.''
The work consists of a bonsai tree, metal tubing, gauges and other instruments.
Beowulf said, in an artist's statement to the judges, that it was a commentary on environmental science.
''With growing concerns about environmental despoliation, climate change and the fragile interdependence between humans with their natural environment, this living bonsai sculpture reveals the absurd hubris of human science and technology in their belief they can replicate or improve upon nature's own perfectly functioning carbon storage and conversion machine, a tree,'' he said.
Beowulf is a PhD candidate researching the art and aesthetics of bonsai and its contribution to the resurgent global interest in the aesthetics of nature and the environment.
A special commendation prize of $2000, which was a non-acquisitive award, was given to Kendal Murray for the work Time, Rhyme, Mime.
The judges praised it as a ''beautifully constructed, whimsical and a delight which draws you into a miniature world''.