Gallery Kaiela Artists, Jack Anselmi and Cynthia Hardie, Yorta Yorta (VIC) were awarded the main acquisitive prize of $20k for their installation, Midden.
The immersive installation impressed the judges with it's clever use of the medium and sharing of cultural knowledge.
"The winning work was selected for its ambition, extension of the artist’s practice, the way it extends the medium of ceramic and importantly for the cultural story it presents," the judges said. "The layering of history and content is exposed through a range of ceramic forms: buff raku and ceramic grog, delicate and intricate porcelain bones and shells, and rough hand-shaped balls made from clay collected from the Kaiela (Goulburn) River banks."
Both artists are newcomers to the art form and felt an immediate connection after being introduced to ceramics after attending a workshop at a previous ICAA showcase. "Once I started I just wanted to keep going. I didn’t have experience working with clay before Gallery Kaiela. I started off making coolamons – flattening the clay and using the mould to make them," says Aunty Cynthia.
Each of the works in this year’s award tells a unique story that is very personal to each of the artists, arts collectives and the community they come from, generously sharing aspects of their lives, identity, country and creation stories.
Aunty Cynthia and Jack said that they enjoy the process of learning and building knowledge about how to work with the different clays and the suitability of each for different works.
The winning piece took three months to complete and Aunty Cynthia says that the best part of the challenge was seeing the completed artwork in the gallery under lights. She also "had fun making the moulds of bones, mussels, and shells.. so many, hundreds of them! Many kids don’t know what a midden is – to make it, see it and know kids are learning from it is a good feeling."
Both artists were humbled and surprised at the honour of winning. Aunty Cynthia started shaking and it wasn’t until Jack was walking up his driveway as he arrived home that it started to sink in he got a bit emotional. "Even better than a grand final!" Jack adds.
"The more you look and reflect on this work, the more it reveals. It is a statement and testament of knowledge and connection to country that weaves the past into the present, gathering communities, families and culture, and leaving a legacy for the future.”
All of the artworks commissioned for the awards are now on display at the Shepparton Art Museum until the 25 September. Go to the Shepparton Art Museum website for more details.