The award, first established last year when it went to Melbourne-based artist Atong Atem, is intended to champion the work of Australian women artists.
Presented by the Art Gallery of New South Wales and Swiss luxury skincare house La Prairie, the La Prairie Art Award supports Australian women artists through an international artist residency and the development or expansion of a new body of work. The artist’s work will also be acquired by the Art Gallery for its collection.
Perkins was selected for her intimate portraits of First Nations people and striking depictions of Country. She draws inspiration for her work from her family archive of photographs, turning family snapshots into tender portraits, while taking charge of the representation of First Nations people and asserting the agency of those she depicts.
Perkins’ acquisitive work comprises four portraits representing three generations of her family members: a Bondi Beach scene of her grandfather, mother and uncle from the late 1960s; a portrait of her sister surrounded by family at the moment candles are being lit on her birthday cake; Thea’s mother and grandfather at his university graduation ceremony; and a portrait of her grandfather and aunt at Telegraph Station in Mparntwe/Alice Springs, a site of historical significance to the family.
Thea Anamara Perkins. Photo: Jacquie Manning
Perkins said she is honoured to be the second recipient of the La Prairie Art Award: ‘I believe it’s crucial that artists are well supported to create their work. I’m really excited by the international residency with La Prairie. It’s invaluable to have this opportunity to extend my practice internationally, especially as a First Nations artist.’
‘My work delves into my family archives of photographs, and through the painting process, communicates the essence of these images. Fleeting, yet suspended in time, they are storied, and coloured by my own emotions and memories. They seek to express the love and strength in First Nations families and situate these instances of joy and belonging, or ‘glimmers’ into our collective imagination,’ added Perkins.
As part of the international artist residency, Perkins will travel to Switzerland to attend the Art Basel international art fair in June as a VIP guest of La Prairie.
Art Gallery of NSW senior curator of Australian contemporary art Isobel Parker Philip said, ‘Perkins has a beautiful and distinct way of re-working and transforming photographs. She understands photography’s capacity to isolate and memorialise particular moments in time. This, paired with her unique approach to line, colour and form, lends her work an emotive resonance. Transient moments are encoded and commemorated in the gentle yet precise gestures of her brushstrokes.’
Thea Anamara Perkins Warren Ball Avenue 2023, Art Gallery of New South Wales, La Prairie Art Award 2023 © Thea Anamara Perkins
Art Gallery of NSW director Michael Brand said, ‘My congratulations to Thea as the recipient of this year’s La Prairie Art Award. Thea is an exciting young artist. Thea’s painting practice celebrates the strength of her family bonds and champions the importance of representation and agency for First Nations people. We are delighted to be acquiring four of her new works thanks to the support of La Prairie. Thea is our second recipient of the annual award, following Melbourne-based artist Atong Atem last year for her work A yellow dress, a bouquet 2022.’
Perkins has been a finalist in the Wynne Prize and a three-time finalist in the Archibald Prize, and in 2021 she was one of the recipients of the Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship. Her work is also included in The National 4: Australian Art Now which opens later this month at the Art Gallery.
Swiss luxury skincare house La Prairie is known worldwide for its support of the arts and of daring women artists. In addition to the La Prairie Art Award, the brand is a major sponsor of Art Basel Hong Kong, Basel and Miami and West Bund in Shanghai since 2017 and the patron of iconic cultural institutions such as Fondation Beyeler (Switzerland), MoMa Ps1 (US) and Centre Pompidou (France).
La Prairie chief brand officer Laurent Christin said, ‘As an organisation that has always been inspired and deeply engaged in the world of art and culture, we proudly celebrate the second year of the La Prairie Art Award as a platform to support women artists in Australia. This award marks the continued commitment of La Prairie to empower the community of young women artists in the contemporary art world by offering them an opportunity to expand their practice through inspiration and experience during their residency.’
Perkins’ works will enter the Art Gallery of NSW’s collection. The works will be on display in the South Building until 19 March 2023, then on display as part of the free exhibition The National 4: Australian Art Now until Sunday 23 July 2023.