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Finalists For The Walters Prize

12 June 2006

The finalists for New Zealand’s richest and most prestigious contemporary art award have been decided.

The $50,000 Walters Prize, modelled on the Tate Britain’s Turner Prize, is awarded for an outstanding contribution to contemporary art in New Zealand in the past two years. Previous winners were et al. in 2004 for restricted access and Yvonne Todd in 2002 for Asthma and Eczema.

Named in honour of artist Gordon Walters, the prize was established in 2002 by founding benefactors and principal donors Erika and Robin Congreve and Jenny Gibbs to make contemporary art a more widely recognised and debated feature of New Zealand cultural life. 2006

FINALISTS

Stella Brennan nominated for Wet Social Sculpture 2005, first shown at St Paul St Gallery, Auckland

Phil Dadson nominated for Polar Projects 2004, first shown at Dunedin Public Art Gallery

Peter Robinson nominated for The Humours 2005, first shown at Dunedin Public Art Gallery

Francis Upritchard nominated for Doomed, Doomed All Doomed 2005, first shown at Artspace, Auckland Each finalist will receive $5,000 thanks to major donor Dayle Mace. They were selected by a jury of four experts appointed by the Auckland Art Gallery. JURY

Christina Barton - writer, curator and art history programme director at Victoria University, Wellington;

Andrew Clifford - freelance writer, curator and broadcaster. A member of the Electric Biorama Spectacular, a group which has been exploring the effects of sound and light in Australasia since 1900;

Wystan Curnow - writer, curator, co-director of Jar Space and English Professor at Auckland University;

Heather Galbraith - senior curator and manager of curatorial programmes at City Gallery, Wellington. I

NTERNATIONAL JUDGE A mystery international judge will select the winner, to be announced at a gala dinner in late October. The winner will receive $50,000 plus an all expenses paid trip to New York to exhibit their work at Saatchi & Saatchi’s world headquarters. The judge will give a free public talk the evening following the award dinner.

Auckland Art Gallery Director Chris Saines says; “Appointing an international judge to select the Walters Prize brings the finalists’ works to the attention of one of the world’s top art commentators, and also provides the opportunity for an ongoing relationship for the New Zealand contemporary arts community”. The 2004 Walters Prize judge, Robert Storr, is curating this year’s Venice Biennale. Page 2 JURY STATEMENT “In deciding which artists have had the biggest impact on New Zealand art over the last two years, the 2006 Walters Prize jury left no stone unturned. At one stage there were more than 30 names on our whiteboard. Interestingly, some of New Zealand’s most senior practitioners featured alongside emerging artists, all with fresh, vibrant projects that collectively demonstrated an impressive diversity in New Zealand’s current cultural production. After extensive deliberations, it was surprising to find that four projects had seemingly found their own way to the top of our list. Without dispute we had settled on an exceptional group of works and we unanimously agree that this exciting group of projects represent the best produced in New Zealand since the last Walters Prize.”

STELLA BRENNAN

Born 1974 Auckland Lives in Auckland Graduated from Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland Represented by Starkwhite Gallery, Auckland Lectures in visual arts at Auckland University of Technology’s School of Art and Design Founder of the Aotearoa Digital Art online community One of four New Zealand artists selected for the 2006 Biennale of Sydney

Nominated for Wet Social Sculpture 2005 Jury comment: “Converting AUT’s St Paul St gallery into a public spa with dubious restorative intent, Wet Social Sculpture is an irreverently layered result of Stella Brennan’s interest in the fate of modernism and the idiosyncratic ways that art draws on and is absorbed by popular culture. Neatly combining her ongoing explorations of abstract cinema, psychedelic escapism, suburban consumerism and utopian architecture, Wet Social Sculpture is a witty and engaging critique of how concepts age and are translated into contemporary culture.” PHIL DADSON: Born 1946 Napier Lives in Auckland Graduated 1971 from Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland Represented by Starkwhite Gallery, Auckland

Nominated for Polar Projects 2004

Jury comment: “It is always pleasing and impressive to see a senior artist’s practice continue to increase in energy, range and sophistication and Philip Dadson is currently at the top of his game. Having recently retired from full-time teaching to concentrate on his own work, the last few years have been busy for Dadson and the rewards of this renewed focus have been evident in his work. In particular, a 2003 residency in Antarctica resulted in Polar Projects, a large body of video and sound works, drawings and photographs that have been variously installed around the country. The selectors were especially struck with the video works, which powerfully demonstrate how Dadson uses technology, found materials and the body in his distinctive way to capture and channel the rhythms that resonate in any and every environment, even one as unrelenting as this icy landscape.”

PETER ROBINSON: Born 1966 Ashburton Lives in Auckland Graduated 1989 from Ilam School of Fine Arts, Canterbury University, Christchurch Represented by Peter McLeavey Gallery, Sue Crockford Gallery, Brook Gifford Gallery

Nominated for The Humours 2005

Jury comment: “Peter Robinson’s work has always been a challenge to ‘good taste’ and The Humours is no exception. Here a livid lexicon of sculptural forms pay their dues to artistic heavyweights like Claes Oldenburg, Jackson Pollock, Philip Guston and Franz West, while simultaneously simulating a mess of consumerist excess: a veritable feast of cigarette smoke and junk food and their nasty after/side effects.

This installation feels like a comeback piece, drawing together Robinson’s earliest sculptural pieces with his ongoing examination of the insidious ways in which society is structured: to exclude and prohibit but also to seduce and compel, using the visceral qualities of his materials to get right under our skin.”

FRANCIS UPRITCHARD: Born 1976 New Plymouth Lives in London Graduated 1997 from Ilam School of Fine Arts, Canterbury University, Christchurch Represented by Ivan Anthony, Auckland and Kate MacGarry, London Nominated for Doomed, Doomed, All Doomed 2005 Jury comment: “Francis Upritchard is an emerging artist making waves in London, where she lives, New York and New Zealand with a twisted view of her particular world and her peculiar take on history. Doomed, Doomed, All Doomed is a case in point.

While the title of this mini-survey evokes an apocalyptic gloom perfectly pitched to the tenuousness of our historical moment, its contents speak of the past as she creatively re-imagines it. Upritchard combines desiccated votives and tatty remains with gummy models, half-baked trinkets and museum vitrines, challenging distinctions between sacred and profane, hobbyist and artisan, bric-a-brac and artefact.

By compiling this patently fake past with its strangely pathetic cultural inheritance, Upritchard reminds her audiences of what was and is invested in all efforts to hold on to history. She shows how ‘our’ desires to catalogue and contain are probably driven, too, by a thoroughly primitive fear of annihilation from which none of us are entirely free, not even at this very minute.” Exhibition opens: Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki New Gallery, 2 September to 19 November

ENDS

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