May 26 2017

Sarah Contos Wins Australia’s Richest Prize for Young Contemporary Artists

by Crystal Wu

2017 Ramsay Art Prize winner SARAH CONTOS with her work Sarah Contos Presents: The Long Kiss Goodbye (2016). Photo by Saul Steed. Courtesy the Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide.

Australian artist Sarah Contos has been announced as the winner of the inaugural Ramsay Art Prize with her work Sarah Contos Presents: The Long Kiss Goodbye (2016), receiving AUD 100,000 on Friday, 26 May.

Described as her “most ambitious work to date” by Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA) director Nick Mitzevich, Contos’s prize-winning creation features a quilt created by hand and machine, which contains personal remnants of her practice from the last four years. AGSA inaugural curator for contemporary arts Leigh Robb, who was one of the judges of the prize, said of the artist, “Contos’s 21st century quilt spills over, and, like a new epic history tableaux, celebrates power women in all their glory with fireworks, sequins and PVC.”

The judging panel—Rhana Devenport, director of the Auckland Art Gallery; Nell, an Australian artist; and Leigh Robb—were unanimous in their selection and feel that Contos “represents a wonderful beginning for the Prize” as its first winner.

In her artist statement, Contos explained the significance of her work: “As an artist whose process inhabits fantasy roles to reflect on female experience, I create self-generated mythologies that evoke dichotomies synonymous with being a woman. This work is a ‘scrapbook’ of these contrasts and embraces their emotional value.”

Born in Perth and currently based in Sydney, 39-year-old Contos’s work include collages, sculptures and installations. She has been featured in a number of group exhibitions in Australia, and will present her creations in the forthcoming “1917: The Great Strike” exhibition at Sydney art space Carriageworks. The show will commemorate one of the largest industrial conflicts in Australia, which occurred a century ago.

Dubbed “Australia’s richest prize for young contemporary artists,” The Ramsay Art Prize is a new acquisitive visual arts prize for Australian artists aged below 40. Presented by the AGSA and supported by the James & Diana Ramsay Foundation, it aims to “support and encourage contemporary Australian artists to make their best work at a pivotal moment in their career.” The prize had 21 finalists this year; their submitted works cover a broad set of mediums, including video installations, chromogenic photos and paintings. These works will be exhibited at the Art Gallery of South Australia from May 27 to August 27, 2017.

Crystal Wu is an editorial intern at ArtAsiaPacific.

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