The Richard T Nelson Awards for Sculpture Premier prize of $15,000 was won by Wall Sculpture No. 5, a piece constructed out of cow bone by Taranaki-based artist Sam Kelly.
Sam has been working with bone for over 12 years mainly in a jewellery context. Her jewellery has been exhibited both nationally and internationally and for the last two years she has been exploring larger scale cow bone sculptures.
The winning artwork was selected by Reuben Friend, director of Pātaka Art + Museum.
"There are so many beautiful and clever works and I spent a very long time looking at each artwork marvelling at the ways the artists work with their media," says Reuben.
"I really love this work by Sam Kelly. It presents a visual trick: at first it looks like a piece of fabric flung over a rail that you want to grab, or like intestine, but on closer inspection you realise that it's bone, it's solid.
"Sam has treated her medium in a very intelligent way. You don't get many artists working with bone at this level. It also references Aotearoa's long history of bone carving and the economic relationship to cows – dairy and meat."
Sam Kelly was overwhelmed when she received the news.
"It's wonderful to get an award with no stipulations, just a recognition of the piece I made and my practice. I really enjoyed making this sculpture. It was made with no space or gallery in mind, just a pure piece to play and explore new territory.
"I'm grateful towards Richard Nelson for setting up this award. It's heartening to have a spotlight on small sculpture. I'm looking forward to investing in some new tools for the workshop."
The awards are sponsored by Wellington businessman and philanthropist Richard T Nelson, an avid art collector who has been sponsoring art awards at the NZ Art Show since 2012. Richard's wish was to reward technique and true craftsmanship through this award.
He is thrilled with the finalists and particularly pleased with the winning artwork.
"I'm inspired at the high quality displayed by the finalists. I agree with Reuben's selections – they really are stand-out pieces and I am honoured to be rewarding these talented artists. They are shining examples of the kind of excellence I want to support."
Carla Russell, executive director of the awards, is delighted with the results.
"The Awards for Sculpture add a dynamic layer to the show," says Russell. "The final artworks are taonga from some of NZ's finest sculptors – absolutely gorgeous works that deserve to be seen and recognised. From contemporary to traditional styles, they all represent elegance and master craftsmanship of the highest order: they are breath-taking."
Five Highly Commended prizes of $1000 were awarded to Strata II, a stoneware and ceramic piece by Yvonne Guillot from Wellington; Bronzerrotype, a bronze sculptural interpretation of the Daguerrotype photographic process by Wellington artist Jonathan Campbell; Macro-laminae by renowned Kerikeri artist Chris Booth, a laminated plywood work inspired by coral fungi; Still, a delicate jade, silver and gold work by Christchurch artist Jacqueline Morren; and Coupled, a geometrical work made from concrete rubble recycled from Wellington and Christchurch earthquakes sites by Porirua artist Stuart McPherson.
Eighty-three artworks from 60 finalists were exhibited in a stunning display at the NZ Art Show over Queen's Birthday weekend, and a diverse range of media and themes were represented.
More information about the NZ Art Show can be found on the show's website here: https://www.artshow.co.nz/