Who Are the Nominees for New Zealand’s 2024 Walters Prize?
Four Aotearoa artists were shortlisted for projects they presented during the most disruptive years of the Covid 19 pandemic.
Owen Connors, The Circle of Life (2022). Photo: Robert Heald Gallery.
The shortlisted artists have been announced for New Zealand's most prestigious contemporary art prize, the NZ $50,000 (US $31,200) Walters Prize.
They are: Frankfurt-based filmmaker Juliet Carpenter; Auckland artist and writer Owen Connors; Auckland sculptor Brett Graham; and upcoming Christchurch multimedia artist Ana Iti.
The nominees were selected based on presentations from 2020 to 2022, a period the jury described as 'a time of unsettled exhibition opportunities, disrupted by Covid lockdowns and restrictions on travel.'
'Despite this,' they said, 'the artists presented extraordinary works that address the cultural, social, and political conditions of our time, and ask us to pay careful attention to the way histories are made, told, and maintained.'
Carpenter's deeply psychological film installation EGOLANE (2022) follows the journey of a woman travelling alone in a driverless car. All-too-familiar lock-down era themes of contemplation, boredom, desire, despair, death, and the limits of one's control permeate the work.
Connor's recent egg tempera paintings put a queer spin on images, materials, and stories from the European art historical canon. Works in his show Incubations (2021) at Robert Heald Gallery directly reference the pandemic through two-sided tondo paintings framed to look like viruses.
Brett Graham's travelling exhibition Tai Moana Tai Tangata (2020–2021) tells the story of Tainui and Taranaki iwi through full scale fortifications and walls recreated with ornate carvings.
Among the works that contributed to Ana Iti's nomination is the sculpture The woman whose back was a whetstone (2021), which uses stone blocks found at the breakwaters of port Taranaki to invoke the mythology of Hine-tua-hōanga, a Maori female deity who is described as like a surface against which tools can be sharpened.
Jurors described these diverse projects as 'the culmination of formal, material and conceptual experimentation' stating that each artist was 'making an outstanding contribution to contemporary art in Aotearoa.'
Named after New Zealand Modernist pioneer Gordon Walters, the prize is hosted by Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki (AAG). Previously biennial, the prize is now triennial, highlighting outstanding contributions to New Zealand contemporary art made in the previous two years.
The reformatting of the prize, AAG Senior curator Natasha Conland explained, allows for the recognition of 'an artist's overall recent contribution to contemporary art, rather than one single work'.
The 11th Walters Prize Exhibition will open in mid-2024, and the winner will be announced later that year.
Previous prize-winners included: Maureen Lander and the Mata Aho Collective—who won with their collaboration, Atapō (2020)—Dan Arps, Peter Robinson, Francis Upritchard, et al, Shannon Te Ao, Luke Willis Thomspon, and Kate Newby. —[O]