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Vietnam-born artist wins People's Choice

An artwork inspired by Chinese porcelain and the fragility of life has won the Campbell Smith Memorial People’s Choice Award at the 2019 National Contemporary Art Award exhibition.

A Cold Heart is a Fragile One Even When It’s Big is a work by 30-year-old Vietnam-born Chinese New Zealander Weilun Ha using ink and pigments on fabric.

Waikato Museum Director Cherie Meecham says: “The People’s Choice Award is an opportunity for the general public to make a final judgement on the exhibition. We now invite people to take the opportunity to see this final winning work before the exhibition closes on Sunday.”

Artist Weilun Ha says he is overcome to win the award for the most popular artwork in the exhibition: “This is about people liking my work and voting for my piece. I’m dumbfounded.”

Mr Ha has been an award winner in the past, winning the Vermont Award in the 25th Annual Wallace Art Awards 2016 which gave him a three-month fellowship to join the Vermont Art Studio in Vermont, United States. Together with a further three-month fellowship awarded directly to him by the studio, this enabled the Auckland University architecture graduate to make a career switch into art after teaching quantity surveying at Otago Polytechnic.

Now teaching art at the Little Forest Art Studio in Albany, Auckland, Mr Ha gets his inspiration from nature, antiques and Chinese porcelain.

The Campbell Smith Memorial People’s Choice Award, worth $250, is sponsored by the Smith family as a tribute to the former Waikato Art Museum Director, artist, playwright and poet. Visitors to the exhibition are invited to cast a vote in a polling box set up inside the gallery for the full three months the exhibition is on show.

The main awards presented at the opening of the exhibition in August were:

• 2019 National Contemporary Art Award for $25,000 co-sponsored by Tompkins Wake and Chow:Hill: Dunedin-based artist Ayesha Green (Kaai Tahu, Ngaati Kahungunui), for Nana’s Birthday (A Big Breath), acrylic on plywood.
• 2019 Runner-up and winner of the $5,000 Hugo Charitable Trust Award: Wellington-based artist Gina Matchitt (Ngaati Rangitihi Te Arawa, Ngaati Nahere, Whakatoohea), for He Tohutono (Commanding Sign), in textile.
• 2019 Friends of Waikato Museum $1,000 Merit Award winner: Auckland-based artist Matthew Browne for Anecdoche (acrylic on canvas).
• 2019 Random Art Group $1,000 Merit Award winner: Whangarei-based artist Cathy Tuato’o Ross for Reason: Shame, a hand-painted photograph (gouache on pigment print).

Details of the exhibition, running until Sunday 10 November, are available on the Waikato Museum website www.waikatomuseum.co.nz

Celebrating its 20th birthday this year, and held at Waikato Museum since its inception, the 2019 National Contemporary Art Award attracted more than 300 entries from around New Zealand and overseas, and 52 finalists were included in the exhibition. Tompkins Wake, one of New Zealand’s leading law firms, and nationally-renowned architects Chow:Hill, have co-sponsored the overall award since 2014 and 2015 respectively.


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