Best Artist

Art at its best challenges the accepted shape of things. It transforms materials, spaces and bodies in order, ultimately, to transform consciousness. While this year’s nominees run the gamut of artistic practice, their work is marbled through with themes of cultural equilibrium and reforming and reframing what we think of as the Australian experience.  

 

Woven Kolektif

Woven Kolektif

Forging collectivity, Woven Kolektif is a group of artists exploring Australian-Indonesian connections. Made up of members Bridie Gillman, Ida Lawrence, Alfira O’Sullivan, Sofiyah Ruqayah, Leyla Stevens, Kartika Suharto-Martin and Mashara Wachjudy, this collective explore ideas of identity, memory and cross-cultural experience to craft immersive exhibitions. The environments Woven Kolektif create offer temporary gathering spaces for moments of solace that reflect the Indonesian concept of nongkrong, or ‘being together’. This year Woven Kolektif members have exhibited extensively all around Australia, created a supportive network for Australian-Indonesian artistscollectively presented Breathing Room at Cement Fondu as well as Looking Here Looking North and ASYIK Casula festival at Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre.

Photo courtesy of Woven Kolektif

 

Kieran Bryant

Fluid and fleeting, Kieran Bryant creates alternative narratives to dominant viewpoint of queer visibility and the body. Mapping emotional landscapes within the queer body, he externalises them in performance, sculpture, video and installation within his solo practice. Kieran is also a founding member of 110%, a trio of emerging artists including Beth Dillon and Lachlan Herd. This year Kieran was recipient of The Freedman Foundation Travelling Scholarship, held a solo exhibition at Firstdraft, as well as collaborating with 110%, alongside whom he was awarded a Career Development Grant from the Australia Council and presented work at Soft Centre. 

Photo: Samuel Hodge

Shivanjani Lal

Shivanjani Lal

Offering gestures for healing, Shivanjani Lal is a twice-removed Fijian-Indian Australian artist and curator exploring ideas of dislocation. Shivanjani’s practice is embodied by the Fijian-Hindi word sunno, meaning to listen with understanding. In her works she unpacks the social history that brought her family from India to Fiji and now to Australia, using unmaking processes such as erasure in hopes of documenting the ghosts of her ancestors. This year she was awarded the 2019 Emerging NSW Visual Arts Fellowship and exhibited across Australia.

Photo courtesy of the artist

Amrita Hepi

Embodying power and grace, Amrita Hepi is a First Nations choreographer and dancer who uses movement to unpack race and gender. From Bundjulung (Aus) and Ngāpuhi (NZ) territories, her work is characterised by hybridity, engaging in intersecting choreographic practices with other domains such as visual arts and participatory research. Amrita’s work takes various forms but always begins with the body as a point of archive, memory, dance and resistance. This year, Amrita Hepi was a part of The National at AGNSW, toured work throughout Australia, Europe and North America and undertook a Danceweb scholarship as part of Impulstanz in Vienna, Austria, under the mentorship of Mette Invargsten.

Photo courtesy of the artist

Justine Youssef

Justine Youssef

A poetic storyteller, Justine Youssef creates intuitive artworks that draw upon an archive of personal memories. Born in the heart of Western Sydney, Justine employs sculpture, video, installation and text to examine the grant narratives of faith, love, family and home drawn from her lived experiences. In doing so, she creates immersive experiences that are both epic and intimate, whispering invocations of promise, comfort and resistance. This year Justine Youssef was awarded the 2019 John Fries Award, co-founded PARI – a new artist run space in Parramatta, worked with Parramatta Artist Studios and exhibited extensively in Sydney and interstate.

Photo courtesy of the artist