Jenny Orchard won the invitation-only, biennial prize for her ceramic sculpture.
The University of Queensland Art Museum’s National Self-Portrait Prize awards AUD50,000 to an Australian artist whose self-portrait is acquired by the Museum’s collection.
On 10 November 2017, UQ Art Museum announced the winner of the National Self-Portrait Prize 2017 as Jenny Orchard. The winner of the award is selected by an independent judge of national stature, who this year was the University of South Australia’s Anne and Gordon Samstag Museum of Art Director Erica Green, Curator of the 2018 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art.
Orchard’s earthenware figure Self Portrait as a Multispecies Activist (2017) was selected as the winning artwork from among 28 entries on show in “Looking at me looking at you”, curated by Glenn Barkley and Holly Williams at the UQ Art Museum until 18 February 2018.
The exhibition considers the roles that the spectator plays in the construction of an image, as well as the exchange between the viewer and the maker. Framing the self as the subject of an image or object creates an intimate conversation within the gallery space that can also be extended further.
The title of the show is taken from the song (I’m) Stranded by the punk rock band The Saints, recorded in Brisbane in 1976, becoming an instant Australian cult hit and now considered a classic. UQ Art Museum writes about the artists in the show:
Most of the artists in “Look at me looking at you” are also in this spirit, revelling in aspects of the hand-made, the hand-me-down, the urgent and the everyday. They come from a diverse range of backgrounds and ages, are at different points in their careers, and create a variety of touchpoints, from celebrating the banality of the everyday through to pop music, family relationships and the nature of identity.
Presenting the work of artists that are not the “usual suspects” but rather were selected “outside of the confines of major metropolitan institutions”, as the curators reveal, the exhibition provides an “eclectic curatorial approach” according to UQ Art Museum Director Dr Campbell Gray:
The idea of a self–portrait provides artists with a unique opportunity to question themselves, theiridentities, their personalities and insecurities and, for many, to construct an image of themselves that they would otherwise probably never make.
Who is Jenny Orchard?
Jenny Orchard is a Sydney-based artist who creates figurative hybrid ceramics called Zookiniis or Interbeings, totemic forms and vessels since the early 1980s. The artist is interested in the diversity of material form, and her work encompasses sculpture, drawing, painting and collage, exploring liminal states of being.
She has exhibited widely at home and internationally, including at the second Jakarta Ceramics Biennale in 2014, the Gail Museum and the Imazoo Gallery Seoul in Seoul, Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane and National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, among others.
As the prize judge points out, Orchard has been an important influence in contemporary ceramic art practice for the past 40 years, continuing the long tradition of ceramic sculpture in Australian art, exemplified by artists such as John Perceval and Arthur Boyd.
Her winning work Self Portrait as a Multispecies Activist (2017) is a totemic ceramic sculpture representing herself and her life. Talking about the work to UQ Art Museum, the artist says of her colourful artwork:
At the heart of my ceramics and art practice is a yearning for connection – connection with other people, but also with the world, the ecology. This idea permeates my ceramic creatures and totems – any of which could be a self-portrait, ‘this is how I am’, bits of everything. To create this work I’ve taken many components from moulds of plants, vegetables from the supermarket, tree rubbings, and debris from my garden – they’re reminiscent of phytoplankton, the shapes of clouds, eyes that reflect back.
Erica Green talks about Orchard’s self-portrait as “technically… very refined”, “playful, celebratory and intriguing“, offering “a bold imaginative leap into another world. It’s a totemic amalgam of the things that surround her life physically, and her belief in the redeeming role of ‘empathy’.” In her statement about the winner, Green says:
It’s a portrait of her life and she draws on elements and things that she sees in the everyday. Jenny brings a very quirky and idyosincratic spirit to her ceramic practice and it has a very individual approach that draws very much on the everyday experience. The more you look at the work, the more you see. I think it really draws on that great tradition in Australian art of ceramic sculptural practice.
C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia
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