Salote Tawale wins 2020 Mosman Art Prize

The 2020 Mosman Art Prize – an acquisitive art prize for painting, and Australia’s oldest and most recognised local government art award – has been awarded to Sydney-based artist Salote Tawale.

Tawale was presented with the first prize of $50,000 by 2020 judge, Alexie Glass-Kantor, Executive Director of Artspace, Sydney at a small announcement event which was streamed live on Facebook on the evening of Tuesday 25 August at Mosman Art Gallery, Sydney. Tawale’s winning work, Mangroves (2020) – a portrait of an unknown face against a soft pink background, haloed by an adornment made from repurposed materials – now enters the celebrated Mosman Art Collection; a valuable and historic collection that surveys Australian painting since 1947.

Salote Tawale, Mangroves, 2020, acrylic on canvas, 95 x 77cm. Winner, 2020 Mosman Art Prize

‘Working in the expanded field of painting, this extraordinary textured and collaged portrait touches on themes of ancestral history, memory, transmission, migration, displacement, language and culture,’ says Glass-Kantor. ‘The painting is an eloquent and considered homage to the idea of who Salote is and the contemporary world she inhabits, as well as the history and traditions that she has inherited through generations of women and community.’

Tawale says: ‘A detached head bowed in contemplation or maybe in sorrow, on face value they are quite similar gestures. The wallpaper behind is not a luscious plant but a weed or a marshy grass. A rosette and ribbon sit at the top of the head, made from Pacific patterned sulu material and tarpaulin… I come from the mangroves in Noco in the Fiji Islands, but I also have an Australian European settler-colonial background. Through this work, I consolidate these legacies and disconnections, whilst contemplating an unknown future. I would like to pay my respects and acknowledge that these contemplations take place, and this work was made, on the land of the Gadigal and Wangal peoples of the Eora Nation, where sovereignty was never ceded.’

Further awards presented on the night included: the Margaret Olley Commendation Award ($6,000) given to Stieg Persson for Lido (2019), the Allan Gamble Award (for built environment) valued at $3,000 won by Philjames for Landscape composition 1 (2020), and the Guy Warren Emerging Artists’ Award ($2,000) presented to Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran for Ascension, Hog and Alter Ego (2020).

View the works of all 79 finalists at Mosman Art Gallery, on show from 26 August to Sunday 4 October 2020. Public programs, including an artist talks event (which will also be streamed live on social media), will accompany the exhibition. Visitors can also vote for the Viewers’ Choice Award which will be announced prior to the exhibition closing.