Tuesday, December 1, 2020


“Canberra CityNews” Artist of the Year

Julie Bradley

A veteran Canberra artist who creates ravishing works of art on paper has been named 2020 “Canberra CityNews” Artist of the Year, it was announced tonight (December 1) at the 30th annual ACT Arts Awards evening, held in the Canberra Museum & Gallery.

Ainslie artist Julie Bradley was singled out by the Canberra Critics Circle judging panel for a remarkable year, in which she undertook a residency in Ireland then returned to mount a huge exhibition at Belconnen Arts Centre, “Evocation,” of paintings conveying the emotional effects of place and weather.

Bradley received a certificate and cheque to the value of $1,000 from “Citynews” and craft critic Meredith Hinchliffe presented her with a set of finely-crafted stainless steel spoons by Canberra artist Alison Jackson on behalf of the Critics Circle, which hosted the event.

Julie Bradley (Photo: Holly Treadaway)

Bradley, whose work is held in the collections of the NGA, the ANU, CMAG, Calvary Hospital Birth Centre, Canberra Hospital and the Lu Rees Archive, has been an artist for over 35 years.

After coming to Canberra to study at the old School of Art in Canberra, she and her folk musician husband Kevin Bradley settled in Ainslie and started a family while Julie took up a lectureship in graphic design and illustration at the University of Canberra.

CityNews Editor Ian Meikle and Julie Bradley (Photo: Peter Hislop)

After 20 years at UC, Julie resigned and threw herself into art full-time. As well, through her memberships of M16 and ANCA, she became known as a leading mentor to up-and-coming artists.

In the past year she used her 2019 CAPO Fellowship and a travelling grant from ArtsACT to take up a residency at Ireland’s Ballinglen Arts Foundation in North West County Mayo, where, while Julie she produced enough art to exhibit in Ballycastle and Galway.

Helen Tsongas Award for Excellence in Acting

Lainie Hart

Earlier in the evening the Helen Tsongas Award for Excellence in Acting was presented by ACT Arts Minister Tara Cheyne to Lainie Hart, who was singled out by the Canberra Critics Circle for a remarkable body of work over the past year in live and screen performances for Lakespeare & Co, The Q and Canberra REP. The critics praised her “transfixing performances that were at times fiercely dramatic and menacing and at others pure, zany comedy.”

A dedicated actor, Hart works by day as a neuropsychologist with the ACT Department of Health and the ANU.


ACT Arts Minister Tara Cheyne and Lainie Hart (Photo: Peter Hislop)

After playing more than 20 principal roles for theatre companies around the ACT, in 2017 she accepted an offer to do a full-time acting course at 16th Street Actor's Studio in Melbourne, directed by former Canberran Iain Sinclair.

After graduating, Hart returned to Canberra, where she has produced a series of extraordinary, intense performances which one member of the Critics Circle described as “mesmerising.”

Angela Tsongas, Mrs Tsongas, Lainie Hart and Halimah Kyrgios (Photo by Peter Hislop)

The Helen Tsongas Award for excellence in acting was established by the Tsongas family in the name of the late Helen Tsongas, actor and arts bureaucrat, on behalf of the Critics Circle, which hosted the event.

Helen Tsongas

It takes the form of a cheque to the value of $1000 and a certificate going to the best Canberra actor of the year, with no restrictions on age or gender, as judged by the theatre panel of the Canberra Critics Circle.

Canberra Critics Circle Awards

The centrepiece of the 30th ACT Arts Awards was the presentation of Canberra Critics Circle certificates by Dr Sarah Schmidt, the new director of Canberra Museum & Gallery, to the artists below:

Visual Arts

Ian Jones

For his exhibition that provided a rare opportunity to see an impressive selection of the artist’s beautiful ceramic pots that are the result of many years of commitment to the traditional art of wood firing and the mastery of his craft. Ash and Clay, a celebration of 40 years of wood firing at Gundaroo.

Visual Arts

Ham Darroch

For his exhibition, Propeller, at the ANU Drill Hall Gallery, in February 2020 of energetic, highly coloured artworks of geometrical shapes and object-based forms, including a12 metre work, entitled Counter Attack, drawn and painted directly onto the wall of the gallery.

Visual Arts

Alexander Boynes

For the exhibition, Hi-Vis Futures, at Canberra Museum and Gallery, November 2019 to February 2020, jointly presented with Mandy Martin and Tristen Parr, which movingly portrayed the destruction and resilience of the natural environment, as the smoke clouds began to hang over Canberra.

Visual Arts

Sophie Dumaresq

For her exhibition, The Hairy Panic, at Nishi Gallery during Art, Not Apart, comprising photographs of a land art installation on grasslands surrounding Lake George, incorporating tumbleweed sculptures.

Visual Arts

Grace Costa

For leading an exciting, absorbing, exquisite, quirky and powerful exhibition by eleven Canberra region artists at Photo Access, showing the results of exploring, confronting and sharing their personal stories during an 8 months’ long workshop.

Visual Arts

Julie Bradley

For her marvellously resolved exhibition, Evocation, at Belconnen Arts Centre, August 2020, of sophisticated paintings and artists books that eloquently transmitted the powerful emotional effects of place and weather.

Visual Arts

Ruth Oliphant

For her sensitive portrayal, ‘From the ground up’, at Beaver Galleries, November 2019, of the enigmatic internal spaces at the Brickworks in Yarralumla, where three dimensional spaces are flattened and disappear into the distance, reflecting the atmospheric volumes of these beautiful and important old buildings.

Musical Theatre

Jason Bensen

For his portrayal of Leo in Dramatic Productions’ The Producers. He commanded the stage in a particularly well sung portrayal which displayed strong characterisation and excellent comic timing. A most impressive Canberra debut performance.


The Street Theatre

For its innovative response to Covid-19, with its livestreamed production of Conor McPherson’s St Nicholas, performed by Craig Alexander and Den Hanrahan, directed by Shelley Higgs, designed by Imogen Keen and cinematography by Liam Budge, and livestreamed “First Seen” dramaturgical sessions of Milk by Dylan Van Den Berg and Barren Ground by Helen Machalias.


Karen Vickery

For her tightly directed production of an excellent cast and production team for Canberra REP, recreating an authentic insight into Neil Simon’s characters and the period of his semi-autobiographical play, Brighton Beach Memoirs.


Chris Baldock

For the excellence of his direction of John Galati's adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath for Canberra REP which enabled outstanding ensemble work that captured without sentimentality the vision of John Steinbeck's original novel.


Fiona Victoria Hopkins

For the imaginative, edgy costume designs which gave “the look” to Lakespeare and Co’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Rockspeare Richard III. Often sourced from recycled fabrics, Hopkins’ creations were visually striking and also matched the eclectic style of the productions.


Alison Plevey

For Lake March. For courageously working within the restrictive conditions generated by COVID-19 to bring an innovative and entertaining production of dance and live music, presented in several outdoor venues, to an audience of dance goers and the wider Canberra community.


Non Fiction

Patrick Mullins

For The Trials of Portnoy, published by Scribe, which tells the story of how Penguin Australia fought to print Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint, successfully contesting Australia’s censorship laws. This shrewd book is an up-to-date look at the question of what literature can do.

Children’s literature

Krys Saclier

For her children's picture book, Vote 4 Me, which delightfully explains the preferential voting system. Illustrated by political cartoonist, Cathy Wilcox, this book is just as illuminating for many adults as for younger readers.


Helen Ennis

For her profoundly moving, and powerful biography of pioneering Australian photographer Olive Cotton. Ennis has woven her meticulous research into an absorbing narrative with spectacular skill. This biography is illuminating, highly accessible and beautifully written. A triumph.


Felicity Volk

For Desire Lines, a finely drawn and refreshingly epic love story, balancing international adventures with local intricacies. Memorable, magical, and very moving.


Subhash Jaireth

For his innovative workshops at Poetry on the Move in October 2019 on the increasingly important skill of poetry translation seen in his book, Rain Clouds: Love songs of Meerabai, published by Recent Work Press in August 2020. A poet whose fluency in Russian and Indian languages has informed his work on both page and stage, Jaireth has shown the way to multilingual poets by highlighting the cultural contexts in which all poems are written.


Rowan Harvey-Martin

For outstanding direction of the Gabriel Singers, the Llewellyn Choir and jazz band (Michael Dooley, Rouslan Babajanov, James Luke and Derrick Brassington) in a brilliant performance of the Will Todd cantata, Lights, Stories, Dreams, Love and Noodles, which achieved wonderful heights of powerful, beautifully pitched pure tone and clean, clear diction together with inventive, creative and progressive jazz in a portrayal of images of London


Sandra France

For her innovative composition, Flight Memory, a jazz song suite with libretto by Alana Valentine, directed by Caroline Stacey at the Street Theatre in November 2019. The score, which encompassed many jazz and blues styles from New York-style jazz to minimalist jazz, to hip hop, along with nods to classical and baroque influences, was the perfect match for the real-life story of Australian David Warren, inventor of the black box flight recorder.

Dr Sarah Schmidt, Director of CMAG and Sandra France (Photo by Peter Hislop)


Sarahlouise Owens

For her performance in the Art Song Canberra concert, Girls Wearing Trousers, of the complete Dichterliebe song cycle by Robert Schumann. She gave a performance of great power and sensitivity combined with a fine understanding of Schumann’s intentions.


CORO Chamber Ensemble

For presenting an outstanding and finely polished performance of two settings of the Dixit Dominus, displaying accurate and authentic use of period French Baroque ornamentation in the Charpentier and superb pitch, intonation and great attention to dynamic range in the Handel.