Presented biennially by the Art Gallery of South Australia, the prize is open to artists working in any medium, including sculpture, painting, drawing, photography, installation and moving image.
The 2021 prize attracted entries from more than 350 artists.
“We are thrilled to present contemporary talent from every state and territory for the first time in the third iteration of the Ramsay Art Prize,” says Art Gallery director Rhana Devenport.
“AGSA continues its championing of contemporary art practice in this exhibition that celebrates the energetic pulse of artistic practice in Australia right now.”
The finalists include South Australian musician and painter Zaachariaha Fielding, of electronic music duo Electric Fields, who presented his inaugural visual art exhibition, Gold and Silver Linings at the APY Gallery last December, and Port Augusta artist Juanella McKenzie, winner of Country Arts SA’s 2020 Breaking Ground visual arts development award, whose Ramsay entry Yurndu (Sun) uses the traditional technique of weaving emu feathers.
Other SA artists shortlisted for the prize are installation artist Kate Bohunnis, glass blower Liam Fleming, painter Solomon Kammer and textile artist Kasia Tons.
Adelaide-based Fleming, who has been a glass blower for around 10 years, told InReview he was excited to be named as a finalist for his work Post-Production: “This is the first time I’ve had a go [at entering], so I feel very fortunate… I guess I’ve always hidden away as a craftsperson in the glass-blowing studio and then now to just put myself out there more feels a bit weird.”
The young artist is best-known for his series of Graft vases, which have been collected by the National Gallery of Victoria. Post-Production, which has an appearance of elegant fluidity, sees him take his practice in a different direction inspired by his favourite aspect of glass-blowing – “the molten part, the actual gathering out of the furnace”.
“I’m trying to redeem the qualities of that fluidity [of the molten glass] that comes out of the furnace, that process which I love, and trying to show glass back into that form,” says Fleming, who works part-time as the design manager at JamFactory Glass Studio.
“It’s like I’m trying to complete the circle or reverse it backwards… having the knowledge of the glass and then being able to let go for a bit, let it do its own thing.”
The full list of 2021 Ramsay Art Prize finalists also includes Hoda Afshar (Vic), Cigdem Aydemir (NSW), Ella Barclay (ACT), Nathan Beard (WA), Sam Cranstoun (Qld), Dean Cross (NSW), Julia Gutman (NSW), Kieren Karritpul (NT), Daniel McKewen (Qld), Alasdair McLuckie (Vic), Hayley Millar Baker (Vic), Nabilah Nordin (Vic), Tom O’Hern (Tas), Tom Polo (NSW), Anna Madeleine Raupach (ACT), Anna Louise Richardson (WA), Lisa Sammut (ACT) and Nicola Smith (NSW).
The winner – who receives $100,000 and will have their work acquired into the gallery’s collection – will be announced on May 21, with all the finalists’ works being exhibited at the Art Gallery of South Australia from May 22 until August 22. The exhibition also includes a $15,000 People’s Choice Prize.
South Australian artist Vincent Namatjira won the Ramsay Art Prize in 2019 with his double-sided life-size work Close Contact, while the inaugural winner in 2017 was Sydney-based artist Sarah Contos, with her large textile work Sarah Contos Presents: The Long Kiss Goodbye.
The prize is supported in perpetuity by the James & Diana Ramsay Foundation, and aims to “support and encourage contemporary Australian artists to make their best work at a pivotal moment in their career”.
A selection of the 2021 Ramsay Art Prize finalist works:
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This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.