Sydney-based artist Jenny Orchard has won one of Australia’s most prestigious art prizes, The University of Queensland’s National Self-Portrait Prize 2017.
Orchard’s earthenware figure Self Portrait as a Multispecies Activist 2017, was selected as the winning artwork from 28 entries on show at the UQ Art Museum until 18 February 2018.
“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,” Orchard said.
“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,” she said.
The award was judged by the University of South Australia’s Anne and Gordon Samstag Museum of Art Director Erica Green, who is Curator of the 2018 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art.
Ms Green said the artists had responded to the curatorial theme ‘Look at me looking at you’ with carefully considered artworks that demonstrated significant depth, which was a strength of curated, rather than open, prizes.
“The more I looked at the works, the more it was that different qualities began to emerge, and the longer I looked, the more challenging it became to choose a winner,” she said.
“However I was drawn to Jenny Orchard’s very distinctive work – it’s playful, celebratory and intriguing – and revealed something new each time I returned to it.
“It’s technically a very refined work, with detailed and subtle qualities to which the artist has given considerable thought. But Jenny’s ‘self portrait’ is also 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 saving role of ‘empathy’.”
“Jenny is an accomplished senior artist and has been an important influence in contemporary ceramic art practice for the past 40 years. She continues the long tradition of ceramic sculpture in Australian art, exemplified by artists such as John Perceval and Arthur Boyd.”
UQ Art Museum Director Dr Campbell Gray said co-curators Glenn Barkley and Holly Williams’ eclectic curatorial approach provided a wonderful liveliness to 2017’s prize.
“The idea of a self-portrait provides artists with a unique opportunity to question themselves, their identities, their personalities and insecurities and, for many, to construct an image of themselves that they would otherwise probably never make.”