Artists capture imagination

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Artists capture imagination

AVictorian artist has won the prestigious John Shaw Neilson Acquisitive Art Prize at the 2024 Penola Coonawarra Arts Festival.

Artist Isabella MacKirdy (pictured below) received the $12,000 prize, sponsored by The Balnaves Foundation, for her painting “Scents of Spring”, which was inspired by the poem ‘To a Blue Flower’.

The awards were announced at the official opening of the festival at the Penola High School on Thursday evening.

Exhibition coordinator John Mossop said the John Shaw Neilson Acquisitive Art Prize had continued to attract a wide range of entries from within this region and beyond.

The prize was open to all emerging and established artists from throughout Australia and must be inspired by the works of famous Penola poet John Shaw Neilson.

“We continue our long-standing relationship with the Art Gallery of South Australia and were fortunate to have Emma Fey judge this year’s art prizes,” Mr Mossop said.

“Emma is the Assistant Director of Operations for the Art Gallery of South Australia and was very enthusiastic about the high quality of entries for the John Shaw Neilson Acquisitive Art Prize, the Local Art Prize and the Design Prize.”

As in past years, the Lois Hodge Local Art Prize was open to artists residing within the Limestone Coast region, valued at $1000 and sponsored by well known local artist Lois Hodge.

When the awards were announced, Ms MacKirdy’s ‘Scents of Spring’ was described as a highly detailed, stylised composition that evokes the harshness and the contemplative peace of rural life.

Painted in acrylic, her delicately rendered painting celebrates the modesty and beauty of the Australian Native Blue Dampiera, a flower that typically blooms from late winter into spring.

The balance of the painting is created by the weighty-ness of the sharp, rusted blades, akin to Neilson’s line in his poem ‘To a blue flower’, …the rude heavy scent of the wool…’ celebrates the honest grit and beauty of day-to-day life.

The John Shaw Neilson Local Prize winner $1000 sponsored by Lois Hodge was awarded to Dagny Strand for “You and Yellow Air” inspired by the poem ‘You and Yellow Air’.

Judges said the work captured a glimpse into a private moment of memory and reverie.

Ms Strand’s painterly application and loose paintwork masterfully captures the dreamlike mood of the poem.

The Packers Prize, sponsored by Framing Solutions, was awarded to Jaime Densley, while the Highly Commended Prize sponsored by Penola High School was won by Natania Hollingsworth for “The Soldier is Home” inspired by the poem ‘The Soldier is Home’.

Natania’s skillful work draws deeply from Neilson’s poem ‘The Soldier is Home’ and offers a psychological excavation of the ravages of war on the returned soldier.

Ms Hollingsworth was also the $1000 Design Prize winner, sponsored by Hansen Print, after creating a “fabulous, multifaceted design that celebrates the rich history and diversity of the Penola Coonawarra Arts Festival”.

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