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Three Elam artists share top watercolourist prize

18 August 2011

Three Elam artists share top watercolourist prize

Three students from The University of Auckland’s Elam School of Fine Arts will share one of the country’s top prizes for watercolourists.

Wei (Rose) Yu-Ting, Sandra Bushby and Jennifer Clements will evenly split the Henrietta and Lola Anne Tunbridge Scholarship, an award worth $10,000 that is given annually to an Elam artist (or artists) who excels in the exploration of contemporary themes in watercolour.

Lola Anne Tunbridge, who died in 1999, was an avid watercolourist who wished to support aspiring artists in this medium.

For the first time this year, all 30 entries to this year’s scholarship are on display at Elam’s gallery, Projectspace B431. Elam alumnus and respected painter Julian Hooper joined James Cousins, also a respected painter and a staff member at Elam, to adjudicate the show. Both judges agreed the calibre of artwork was high. Julian Hooper noted that all submissions included an artist statement that provided an important context in which to view the works.

“Contemporary art practice is so diverse, it needs to be seen and understood within the context it was made. The winners were chosen partly because the execution of the work has been very successful, but also because it is congruent with the conceptual underpinnings of the work,” says Julian Hooper, whose artworks are held in collections in New Zealand and overseas.

Wei (Rose) Yu-Ting, a 4th year BFA(Hons) student, uses watercolour – a medium she describes as “unforgiving” – to highlight the “satirical mimicry” of hypermasculinity and euphemisms used to describe carnal pleasures. She has created detailed Victorian borders that frame sexually-charged phrases, using “careful brushstrokes” to downplay the looseness of the watercolour medium and “reclaim female agency with indirect speech”.

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Sandra Bushby (MFA student) explores the idea that “water and contemporary watercolours are both a bodily experience”. Her abstract designs for Poole Pottery (an English pottery manufacturer) are expressions of the tensions within watercolour as a medium: “The intention in the process is precise while simultaneously aiming for movement, floating and freedom.”

MFA student Jennifer Clements draws parallels with her fascination with the sport of boxing and the act of painting. The “fistfight” that ensues involves the paper itself as her “opponent”; she, the artist/fighter administers a series of “jabs” and “parrys” that result in “haemorrhaging” effects on the paper. Jennifer notes that evidence of the confrontation “only shows itself when the drying process is at an end”.

“The incredible generosity of the Tunbridge Scholarship certainly provides an incentive, and the stipulation of watercolour as the medium throws down a challenge, for today’s fine arts students, engaged as they are with new media and contemporary art concepts and practices. Yet undaunted by the weight of tradition and expectation that hangs over watercolour, many Elam students have risen to this opportunity to investigate the medium and expand their practice. This year’s results are amazing – confident, innovative, fresh and joyous,” says Head of Elam, Professor Jonathan Mane-Wheoki.

The scholarship is awarded by the Henrietta and Lola Anne Tunbridge Charitable Trust, which is administered by trustee and wealth management company Guardian Trust.

The University of Auckland’s National Institute of Creative Arts and Industries comprises the School of Architecture and Planning, Elam School of Fine Arts, the Centre for New Zealand Art Research and Discovery (CNZARD), the School of Music and the Dance Studies Programme.


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