Cathy Gray wins Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize people's choice award

Cathy Gray wins Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize people’s choice award

South Australian artist Cathy Gray hopes highlighting the plight of disappearing native plants will empower Australians to do more to protect them.

Her piece Endangered has won The People’s Choice Dr Wendy Wickes Memoriam Prize as a part of the South Australian Museum’s Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize.

It was also highly commended by judges for its depiction of the fragile relationship between the arts and the natural world.

Ms Gray’s illustration captured 756 of Australia’s 758 critically endangered and endangered species.

She said while she didn’t win the major prize, it was great that it resonated with people who saw the drawing up close.

Ms Gray says she was humbled by the recognition.(Supplied)

“It’s a bit surreal and just such an honour,” Ms Gray said.

“I think for my work especially, it’s very hard to see online and in a photo, but when you go in and you see it in person, just to have that connection and for it to resonate with people, it’s really important.

“We actually have more foreign species now in Australia then we do native.”

close up shot of mandala with a small list of words
Ms Gray says some of the plants featured in her drawing haven’t been seen for 20 years.(Supplied)

She said the loss of Australia’s endangered species was happening right in front of people.

“It’s the plants we may have in our neighborhoods and because of that I believe unlike some environmental issues, people may be empowered to make a difference,” Ms Gray said.

She said she spent more than 400 hours researching and producing the detailed pen-inked mandala.

long list of name of endangered and critically endangered native plants species written in black
Ms Gray says two plants were missing because she couldn’t find any photos of them. (Supplied)

She said the most challenging aspect of the piece was researching all the different species and trying to find good photos of each one.

“I actually put it out there on Facebook, and people started to tag botanists they knew and people working in botanical gardens, and those botanists contacted their connections that they had around Australia,” she said.

“They all came together for me, it was a huge challenge for everybody to try and get these last 35 plants.

“Every single plant that is drawn on here might not be around if we don’t make changes, or [we] don’t do something to help these plants.”

close up of mandala with black and white drawing
The piece will be on display at the National Archives in Canberra.(Supplied)

The drawing will be on display in the National Archives in Canberra until November.

The People’s Choice Dr Wendy Wickes Memoriam Prize recognizes the significance of the public vote, a unique feature of the award, providing visitors with the opportunity to decide on the piece they think most reflects the spirit of the Waterhouse.

The competition is open to artists from around Australia.