A platform for some of the most engaging and experimental works from the next wave of contemporary antipodean artists, the annual $10,000 non-acquisitive John Fries Award received more than 550 submissions this year with 12 finalists chosen – Akil Ahamat, Paul Greedy, Rochelle Haley, Laura Hindmarsh, Rachael Mipantjiti Lionel, Betty Muffler, James Nguyen, Emily Parsons-Lord, Beyula Puntungka Napanangka, Lisa Sammut, Leyla Stevens and Jelena Telecki.
The John Fries Award 2018 winner is… Sydney-based artist, Akil Ahamat for his video and installation work So the spaces between us can stay soft (2018), selected both for its compelling conceptualisation and its technical realisation.
The panel of guest judges – Consuelo Cavaniglia, Sophia Kouyoumdijian, Mikala Tai, Shannon Te Ao and Kath Fries – were captivated by the winning work, which comments on online and consumer cultures and how they affect and shape identity in a contemporary context.
‘The judges returned to the work again and again, drawn by the intimacy of the experience,’ said Cavaniglia. ‘The work talks of power and complicity, vulnerability and control. It stems from an online experience but finds its own language. It creates the space for a one-on-one exchange with the viewer while speaking about bigger ideas of transference, interrelations and interchange.’
The 2018 highly commended work for the John Fries Award was awarded to Rachael Mipantjiti Lionel from South Australia for her painting Kapi Wankanya (2018). ‘The work is arresting,’ said the judges. ‘The complex handling of paint and colour creates a surface that connects to textiles as much as the digital.’
Curated by Cavaniglia for the second consecutive year, the John Fries Award 2018 exhibition showcases new work in a cross-section of art practices engaging with sound, scent, sculpture, performance, painting and video. Themes include the impact of social and online media, the reconciliation of political realities on identity and the place of Indigenous voice in today’s world; on show at UNSW Galleries until 3 November 2018.