John Fries Award 2020 finalists announced

Drawn from almost 400 applications, the seven finalists of the John Fries Award 2020 represent a cross-section of early-career artists and provide an insight into the diverse emerging talent in Australia and New Zealand.

‘This year, the finalist exhibition draws together artists whose richly conceptual approaches engage with systems of language, power and the construction of histories with sharp and critical wit,’ said Miriam Kelly who will curate the $10,000 non-acquisitive award for the second consecutive year.

Melanie Jame Wolf, Parade : Parade, 2019, 2 channel HD video, 16:9, colour, sound; 3 minutes, 45 seconds. Photograph: Ashton Green and Melanie Jame Wolf. Courtesy the artist

This year’s finalists are:

Darcey Bella Arnold (Melbourne) – painting
Daniel Jenatsch (Melbourne) – sound, video, installation
Sara Morawetz (Sydney/New York) – performance, video, installation
Ryan Presley (Brisbane) – painting, drawing, performance
JD Reforma (Sydney) – video, installation
Melanie Jame Wolf (Melbourne/Berlin) – performance, sound, video, installation
Shevaun Wright (Melbourne/Los Angeles) – installation

Copyright Agency CEO Adam Suckling says: ‘The John Fries Award is an award that champions Australian contemporary art culture like no other. Being nominated as finalists validates the work of these young and inspiring artists and importantly, provides mentoring and financial support that allows them the time and space to create.

‘The Award is widely recognised for its role in supporting artists as well as enriching Australia’s cultural life and community. It is now in its 11th and final year, having created a formidable legacy highlighting pioneering Australian works and unearthing talent, in a way that will continue to leave an indelible mark on our nation’s cultural landscape,’ adds Suckling.

Daniel Jenatsch, Sara Morawetz and Melanie Jame Wolf have all exhibited performance and multimedia works throughout Australia and internationally; Darcey Bella Arnold and Ryan Presley engage with the poetics and politics of space and labour in painting; JD Reforma and Shevaun Wright use humour in their sampling and re-composition of texts from our everyday to consider the construction of power relations and suppression of histories.

The John Fries Award 2020 panel of guest judges are Dr Cherine Fahd, director of photography at University of Technology Sydney; Jaklyn Babington, senior curator of Contemporary Art Practice at the National Gallery of Australia; Stephen Gilchrist, Indigenous writer, curator and associate lecturer of Indigenous Art at the University of Sydney; and Dr Kath Fries, artist, former board member of Viscopy and daughter of the late John Fries.

The winner will be announced on 25 September 2020 at UNSW Galleries in Sydney, with the finalist exhibition running from 25 September to 21 November 2020.