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‘Red handed’ artwork wins $20,000 National Contemporary Art Award

5 August 2022

Multimedia artist Emma Hercus has won the prestigious $20,000 National Contemporary Art Award for a “majestically layered” assemblage work titled Red handed.

The winning work was selected by Reuben Paterson, one of the country’s top contemporary artists, and judge for the 2022 National Contemporary Art Award at Hamilton’s Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga O Waikato.

Paterson, who has affiliations to Ngaati Rangitihi, Ngaai Tuuhoe, and Tuuhourangi, said the experimental process used by Hercus to create Red handed resulted in a work that exists as “a celebration of adversity”.

“My reading begins in the thoughtful process of the artist’s ritual of soaking linen. Placed face down, the linen absorbs an image, like the Shroud of Turin. In placing the linen downwards, it collects the exploits and remnants of surroundings, or of the night before, collecting hairs and souvenirs of tape and collage that make reference to bodies violently surrendering to arrest and control."

"What the artist reveals as this figure is peeled back from the MDF board is a figure rising up, where the violent scars and pitted surfaces are celebrated in confetti colours, and darkness is now set into the past, as a painted black background. These hands are no longer at surrender, but raise in triumphant celebration, masked as a hero, not a villain, from an uprising.”

Through the National Contemporary Art Award’s traditional blind-judging process (concealing the artist names from the judge), Red handed was chosen from 34 finalists and more than three hundred entries. All of the finalist works are now on display in a free exhibition at Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato until 13 November.

“Reuben Paterson has selected an extraordinary piece from a body of work that represents the talent, depth, creativity and bravery of our contemporary arts sector” said Liz Cotton, Director of Museum and Arts, Waikato Museum.

“My congratulations go to all award winners and finalists, and deep appreciation to our award sponsors and wonderful Judge”.

Now in its 22nd year, the National Contemporary Art Award attracted hundreds of entries from around New Zealand and overseas. Tompkins Wake, one of New Zealand’s leading law firms, and nationally-renowned architects Chow:Hill have been sponsors of the top prize since 2014 and 2015 respectively.

The prize winners announced today are:

  • 2022 National Contemporary Art Award, $20,000 prize co-sponsored by Tompkins Wake and Chow:Hill
    Emma Hercus for Red handed (acrylic paint and charcoal on MDF board with collage)

  • 2022 Runner Up and winner of the $5,000 Hugo Charitable Trust Award
    Raukura Turei for He Tukuna V (onepū, oil and pigment on linen).

  • 2022 Friends of Waikato Museum $1,000 Merit Award winner
    Sara (Hera) Tautuku Orme for Ko Te Awa Ko Au -Darling (Darz) (photograph).

  • 2022 Random Art Group $1,000 Merit Award winner
    Oleg Polounine for Dits and Dahs (aluminium foil sculpture).

The Campbell Smith Memorial People’s Choice Award, worth $250, is sponsored by the Smith family as a tribute to the former Waikato Museum Director, artist, playwright and poet. It will be presented to the winner of the most votes by the public just before the Award exhibition closes in November.

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