Best of contemporary art on show
THE BARN GALLERY at Montsalvat is once again the setting for the Nillumbik Prize for Contemporary Art.
The 17th iteration of the prestigious art competition saw 323 entries, responding to the theme “Return”, with the 40 shortlisted finalists currently on show.
Emily Wubben, Exhibition Curator and Collections Management Officer for Nillumbik Council, said there was a good mix of local and national entries.
“The finalist exhibition is a good representation of the entries we received, both locally and nationally, with eight local artists among the 40 finalists.”
The contemporary biennial acquisitive art prize open to artists working in any medium in Australia.
The winner was announced at the exhibition opening on May 6, and for the first time, the Prize has been awarded to a digital artist.
James Nguyen, of Murumbeena, was presented the $20,000 prize in the Open Category for his moving image, The Camelia Economy.
The 20-minute, 29 second video tells the story of a handful of seeds given to the artist by his late grandmother on his return to Vietnam.
In Australia, his family grew the seeds into tea plants which they use to trade and swap with the community, symbolising the preservation of their culture of storytelling, care and entrepreneurship that has survived war and political exile.
Georgia Cribb, Director of Bunjil Place Gallery and one of the three prize judges, said it had been immensely challenging to determine a winner from a strong field across a range of media.
“We are delighted to learn that this is the first time that the prize has been awarded to an artist working in a digital medium,” she said.
The $10,000 local prize was won by Eltham artist Nusra Latif Qureshi for Remnant Blessings-I, an acrylic, graphite, gouache and gold on illustration board.
Nusra told the Diary the award means a lot to her on a personal level, as it is representative of the inclusiveness of the community.
She moved to Eltham about five years ago and says she has found it is a “very nurturing community”.
“I am finding that I am part of the community in a very interesting way, and I know that Eltham has always been a place where artists love to live and make it home.”
Nillumbik Mayor Peter Perkins said this year marked the 17th anniversary of the prize, which was highly regarded around Australia.
“This is a prestigious exhibition for artists to showcase excellence in contemporary art and is a celebration of Nillumbik’s rich artistic and cultural community,” Cr Perkins said.
“Council prides itself on being a strong supporter of the arts on all levels.
“Congratulations to the winners and all the finalists for their impressive and inspiring works.”
Sculptor Clive Murray-White, an artist-in-residence at the Dunmoochin art collective, took out the $500 Mayor’s Award for his work, Assisted Suiseki No: 9.
Cr Perkins said, “This striking piece can be viewed from any angle and immediately caught my eye as it is both contemporary and timeless.”
The open and local prizes are acquisitive, and the winning works will be included in the Nillumbik Shire Art Collection.
Emily said the calibre of the works was extremely high and there was a wonderful cross-section of works in all different media.
She said “Return” has been interpreted in a variety of different ways by the artists.
“These have included an exploration of returning to a sense of ones-self, of true identity — also stories of migration and connections to or memories of home as well as ideas of what returning to normal might be in the COVID context as well as an exploration of retuning to different techniques and methods.
“So there has been a very diverse range of very insightful and creative responses to the one theme,” Emily said.
The biennial prize was judged by Miriam Kelly, Curator at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art; Georgia Cribb, Director of Bunjil Place Gallery and Victoria Lynn, Director of TarraWarra Museum of Art.
The finalists were shortlisted by an independent panel of industry experts: Francis E. Parker, Curator of Exhibitions at Monash University Museum of Art, Jade Bitar, Visual Arts Officer at the City of Stonnington and Helen Walpole, independent art and museum curator.
The Finalist Exhibition is now open at Montsalvat until July 1, 2021.
Entry is free.
Montsalvat is currently open Thursday to Sunday, 10am–4pm.
Visitors are encouraged to vote for their favourite artwork in the People’s Choice Award, which will be announced on July 15, 2021.
For more information about the Nillumbik Prize for Contemporary Art, go to nillumbik.vic.gov.au/npca