Art appreciation

‘Red Handed’ artwork wins $20,000 National Contemporary Art Prize

August 05

Multimedia artist Emma Hercus has won the prestigious $20,000 National Contemporary Art Prize for a “majestically layered” assemblage work titled red hand.

The winning work was selected by Reuben Paterson, one of the nation’s top contemporary artists, and judge for the 2022 National Contemporary Art Award at Hamilton’s Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga O Waikato.

Paterson, who has affiliations with Ngaati Rangitihi, Ngaai Tuuhoe and Tuuhourangi, said the experimental process used by Hercus to create red hand resulted in a work that exists as “a celebration of adversity”.

“My reading begins in the thoughtful process of the artist’s linen-soaking ritual. Placed face down, the cloth absorbs an image, like the Shroud of Turin. Placing the laundry down, it collects exploits and remnants from the environment, or from the previous night, collecting hair and tape and collage memories that refer to bodies violently submitting to arrest and control. What the artist reveals as this figure is peeled away from the MDF board is a standing figure, where violent scars and pitted surfaces are celebrated in confetti colors, and darkness is now set in the past, as a painted black background. These hands are no longer surrendering, but are rising in a triumphant celebration, masked as a hero, not a villain, of an uprising.

Through the National Contemporary Art Award’s traditional blind judging process (hiding artists’ names from the judge), red hand was chosen from 34 finalists and more than 300 entries. All finalist works are now on display in a free exhibition at the Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato until November 13.

“Reuben Paterson has selected an extraordinary piece from a body of work that represents the talent, depth, creativity and bravery of our contemporary arts sector,” said Liz Cotton, Museum and Arts Director of the Waikato Museum. “My congratulations go out to all of the winners and finalists, and my deepest gratitude to our sponsors and our wonderful judge.”

Now in its 22nd year, the National Contemporary Art Award has attracted hundreds of entries from across New Zealand and overseas. Tompkins Wake, one of New Zealand’s leading law firms, and nationally renowned architects Chow:Hill have been first prize sponsors since 2014 and 2015 respectively.

The winners announced today are:

  • 2022 National Prize for Contemporary Art, $20,000 prize co-sponsored by Tompkins Wake and Chow:Hill
    Emma Hercus for red hand (acrylic paint and charcoal on MDF board with collage)
  • 2022 Finalist and $5,000 Hugo Charitable Trust Prize Winner
    Raukura Turei for He Tukuna V (onepū, oil and pigment on linen).
  • 2022 Friends of the Waikato Museum $1,000 Merit Award Winner
    Sara (Hera) Tautuku Elm for Ko Te Awa Ko Au-Darling (Darz)
  • 2022 Random Art Group $1,000 Merit Award Winner
    Oleg Polunin for Dits and Dahs
    (aluminum sheet sculpture).

The Campbell Smith Memorial People’s Choice Award, worth $250, is sponsored by the Smith family in honor of the former director of the Waikato Museum, artist, playwright and poet. It will be presented to the winner of the most public votes just before the closing of the prize exhibition in November.

The finalists for the 2022 National Contemporary Art Prize are:

  • Jana Wood,
    Night market (oil on rabbit skin gesso on board) and
    pink grain (oil on rabbit skin gesso on recycled cardboard)
  • Virginia Were, A terrible mystery
    (framed photographic print)
  • Tira Walsh, dark milk (mixed media on canvas)
  • Hanna Valentine,
    Anytime (with a purpose) (cast bronze, Beal and Edelrid cords, Daisy Chain Black Diamond)
  • Leighton Upson,
    Untitled (oil and spray paint on linen)
  • Raukura Turei, He Tukuna V (onepū, oil and pigment on linen)
  • Nathalie Tozer, Medium Continued (technique Mixte)
  • Sara (Hera) Tautuku Elm, Ko Te Awa Ko Au-Darling (Darz)
  • Marc Soltero, Four corners of the Rorschach (acrylic on burlap)
  • David K. Shields,
    I am Hayden (he/they) (photograph)
  • Merthyr Ruxton, A.W.A. (oil painting on board)
  • Milvia Romici, future rocks (various plastic packaging (milk bottles, cups, meat trays, etc.), plastic bags, wire)
  • Mark Purdom, Shredded Tire 37° 51′ 01.1″S 175° 20′ 34.2″E (giclée photographic print)
  • Oleg Polunin, Dits and Dahs
    (aluminum foil and tape, spray paint)
  • Katie Mouat,
    The moment of truth 2022 (photograph)
  • Deborah Moss, Memories of Nikau (acrylic, ink, oil pastel on stretched linen)
  • Scott McFarlane, Figurative real estate (oil on canvas)
  • Alice Jeesu McDonald,
    fountain of desires (ink on paper)
  • Janet Mazenier, Environment (oil and mixed media with beeswax medium)
  • Christine Little, Past & Future (digital photo)
  • Glen Hutchins,
    In the West (graphite, spray paint and acrylic on unstretched canvas)
  • Emma Hercus, red hand
    (acrylic and charcoal on MDF board with collage)
  • James R Ford, It’s all a little confusing, then it’s over (acrylic paint on canvas)
  • Jessica Douglas, Troubled waters
    (acrylic paint on canvas)
  • Ekaterina Dimieva, Utopian Landscape 01 (oil on canvas)
  • Anthony Densham,
    2022 (acrylic paint on canvas)
  • Elliot Collins,
    there were trees (bone, honey and perspex)
  • Dr. Milton Browne, Thames (photograph)
  • Matthew Browne, MORGENFRISK (vinyl tempera and oil on linen)
  • Gareth Barlow, Shadows from the ashes
    (acrylic and charcoal (including burnt taonga charcoal) on paper)
  • Gemma Baldock, Once upon a time
    (mixed technique/original collage)
  • Matt Arbuckle, Guide (acrylic on knitted polyester, aluminum framed)
  • Rachel Hope Allan, Our Arrangement in Gray and Black N°1 (photograph)
  • Brett a’Court,
    Toiroa’s Prophecy (oil on woolen blanket prepared on canvas support)

Details of the exhibition, which runs until November 13, can be found on the Waikato Museum website.
All works in the exhibition are available for sale and admission is free.

To note: Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga O Waikato uses double vowels in te reo Maaori to represent a long vowel sound as it is the preference of the Waikato-Tainui iwi. Artist names and other titles are displayed in their original form.

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