Sydney-based Kaytetye, Anmatyerre and Southern Arrente artist Carmen Glynn-Braun has been awarded the 2018 TWT Excellence Prize, selected from more than 200 graduating students presenting work in the University of NSW Art & Design’s ‘ANNUAL 18 Graduate Exhibition’, Australia’s largest and most diverse national showcase of graduate contemporary art, design and creative media.
Glynn-Braun’s work, Untitled (2018), explores the Indigenous women’s experiences with the Assimilation Policy (1951-1962), an Australian policy designed to obliterate Indigenous bloodlines entirely by removing children from their families and ultimately ‘breeding out’ skin colour over generations.
The work considers how countless Indigenous women lost their children under the act and consists of four flesh-coloured paint skins that imitate the various skin colours of Indigenous Australia today, post-Stolen Generations. The paint skins are hung alongside each other, fairest to darkest in solidarity, and stand as evidence of the continued survival and resilience of Aboriginal people.
‘I am ecstatic to receive the TWT Excellence Prize, especially given I am graduating amongst many brilliant artists. I feel incredibly humbled and full of hope that our (Indigenous communities’) very important stories have not only been well received but embraced. I hope my practice can remain a positive platform to preserve and honour Indigenous life experiences.’ – Carmen Glynn-Braun
The work of this year’s highly commended artists also explore themes relating to Indigenous heritage. Dennis Golding’s two-channel, large-scale video work, titled Empowering Identity (2018), uses the motif of the cape to explore relationships between pop culture figures such as superheroes and Australian colonial histories.
Darug artist Billy Bain’s series of clay sculptures White Wash (2018) explores localism within surfing culture and examines how Bain, as an Aboriginal man, fits into this concept. For Bain, the beach space is continually under white possession and this is reaffirmed by performative acts of masculinity by the white male bodies of surfers, lifesavers and soldiers. In White Wash, he positions clay beer bottles as both a vessel for these hegemonic masculine rituals and as a metaphor for the body. Using subversive humour, Bain’s creation of clay bodies seeks to decolonise the Australian beach, a space where the Indigenous body has been systematically denied.
The winners were selected by a judging panel including Dean of UNSW Art & Design Ross Harley, UNSW Deputy Head of School (Design) Dr Mark Ian Jones, UNSW Senior Fine Arts Lecturer Debra Phillips and Arts Initiatives Manager at TWT & Bridging Hope Charity Foundation, Ariel Zhang.
The 2018 exhibition will be presented across seven venues at UNSW Art & Design’s Paddington campus including UNSW Galleries; Kudos Gallery; AD Space; Black Box; Interactive Media Lab; The Lecture Theatre; and Makerspace: Virtual Reality Lab, from 28 November to 8 December 2018.