Held every two years, the Ramsay Art Prize is the richest prize for Australian artists under 40. The $100,000 prize is considered career-changing, and previous winners Sarah Contos and Archibald Prize winner Vincent Namatjira have certainly continued their success.
Announced today, the 2021 Ramsay Art Prize winner is 30-year-old South Australian Kate Bohunnis. Currently unrepresented by a commercial gallery, Bohunnis is considered a true emerging artist in the contemporary art world. The artist’s winning work, Edges of excess, toys with the idea of the pendulum as a method of healing and guidance – an axe blade swings precariously over a flesh-like form made of silicone.
This year’s judges were Wiradjuri artist Karla Dickens, curator Dr Daniel Mudie Cunningham and Rebecca Evans from the Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA). Mudie Cunningham, director of programs at Carriageworks in Sydney, told Broadsheet it was challenging to select 24 artists from more than 350 entrants. “In some ways I feel like there are 24 winners. There are so many deserving artists that put themselves forward. It’s a life-altering opportunity.”
“Edges of excess speaks to the precarity of our times,” he says, following the announcement. “It is a visceral portrait of both wellness and anxiety. It is a work full of contradictions.”
The winning Ramsay Art Prize becomes part of AGSA’s permanent collection. In addition to the generous cash award, there’s a secondary prize of $15,000 chosen by the public and all finalist works are on show in a major exhibition at AGSA until August 22.
In this year’s exhibition, Adelaide-based artist Solomon Kammer addresses consent and coercion in Perpetuity, which interrogates the relationship women have with their bodies. Sculptural watchtowers, created by Brisbane artist Sam Cranstoun, question who is watching us. And Perth artist Nathan Beard grapples with identity in Limp-wristed Gesture (i), in which he uses fleshy silicone to represent a hand movement seen in a traditional Thai dance.
“There’s a real urgency around care for country, our environment, around social responsibility and change,” says Mudie Cunningham. “I think it’s reflective of the younger generations feeling the weight of the crises we live with – and wanting to communicate that through their work to effect some sort of change.”
Canberra artist Anna Madeleine Raupach’s Slow Violence (Gospers Mountain) is an embroidered map of the 2019 Gospers Mountain and Kanangra-Boyd National Park bushfires in New South Wales. The artist hand-stitched vivid thread into an emergency blanket, using scientific data of the damage as her guide.
“There are always interesting developments with artists working with new media,” says Mudie Cunningham. “But then again you also see a strong tradition of craftsmanship too.”
Kieren Karritpul is a Ngen’giwumirri artist who lives in the small community of Nauiyu (Daly River), south west of Darwin. His work Weaving Myself: the Landscape and the Land was painted using two brushes, one made with his hair. His painting is a metaphor for the landscape, and as he’s not culturally permitted to weave, he paints in a woven pattern.
Anna Louise Richardson’s work We should be more afraid of the sun than the moon looks at the anxieties we share around protecting the ones we love: knives, poison, cars and spiders appear in her work. And Adelaide-based Zaachariaha Fielding (one half of Electric Fields) draws attention to our collective need to work as one: A Question About Direction is about what divides us, but also what we can achieve together in a divided society.
The Ramsay Art Prize 2021 exhibition runs from May 22 to August 22 at the Art Gallery of South Australia. Admission is free. Find out more here.