For the first time, the prestigious Nillumbik Prize for Contemporary Art has been awarded to a digital artist.
James Nguyen, of Murumbeena, was presented the $20,000 prize for his moving image, The Camelia Economy.
The 20-minute, 29 second moving 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 community, symbolising the preservation of their culture of storytelling, care and entrepreneurship that has survived war and political exile.
The Nillumbik Prize for Contemporary Art is a contemporary biennial acquisitive art prize open to artists working in any medium in Australia.
The winners were announced last night at the official opening of the Finalist Exhibition at Montsalvat’s Barn Gallery last night.
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-1, an acrylic, graphite, gouache and gold on illustration board.
Forty established and emerging artists from across Australia were selected from 323 entries for the Finalist Exhibition, responding to the theme ‘Return’.
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, of Dunmoochin in Cottles Bridge, 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.
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 1 July 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 15 July 2021.