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National Contemporary Art Award winner epitomises contemporary

3 August 2018

Image 2018 National Contemporary Art Award winner Sarah Ziessen with Brian Squair of ChowHill Architects and Jon Calder of Tompkins Wake Lawyers.

Image: 2018 National Contemporary Art Award winner Sarah Ziessen with Brian Squair of Chow:Hill Architects and Jon Calder of Tompkins Wake Lawyers.


The winning work from the 2018 National Contemporary Art Award is the epitome of contemporary, featuring a structure and appearance that will continue to change with time, along with its meaning.

You and Me. The Weight of History by Rotorua’s Sarah Ziessen was revealed as the major prize winner at the awards ceremony and exhibition opening at Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato tonight.

The award judge, Reuben Friend, Director of Porirua’s Pātaka Art + Museum, selected Ziessen’s work for its “great technical skill and a deep knowledge of Aotearoa New Zealand art history”.

“The work took paint and turned it into a sculptural form, creating jackets out of paint skins,” says Friend. “Crossing media from painting to sculpture and adornment, the artwork also crossed lines of history and art practice, referencing the influence of international pop and optical artists such as Bridget Riley, as well as Maaori artistic customs and practices of using kowhaiwhai as a semiotic and architectural function, creating a work that speaks to the dynamics of art making in Aotearoa New Zealand and the plethora of influences that affect our art traditions and identity. 

Ziessen received $20,000 in prize money from major sponsors Tompkins Wake Lawyers and Chow:Hill Architects.

In the artist statement accompanying her entry, Ziessen says You and Me. The Weight of History “explores the way we communicate our personal and cultural identities through pattern”.

“Patterns are so ubiquitous it easy not to give them a thought; to consider them purely decorative, but our associations with them are deep rooted. This work is made from paint skins which have been fashioned into garments. Over time the paint skins will distort with the pull of gravity, the patterns becoming harder to read, echoing the way the signification of distinct patterns become obfuscated or even lost over the course of history.”

Papamoa’s Kereama Taepa won the $5,000 Hugo Award for the Runner-Up, sponsored by the Hugo Trust, for his 3D-printed Pac-Man-inscribed hei tiki titled Consumer Culture.

“This work raises questions around cultural commodification while also exploring how the emergence of automated tools for art making such as 3D printing and virtual digital spaces such as VR will affect art-making and cultural practices and customs as we voyage further into the 21st century,” says Friend.

Merit award prizes of $1,000, sponsored by Random Art Group and Friends of Waikato Museum went to Natchez Hudson and Martin Awa Clarke Langdon, both of Wellington.

For more information, contact:

Dan Silverton

Partnerships and Communications Manager

07 838 6956

021 056 9810