Bluethumb Art Prize 2023 Winners Just Announced!
After months of careful planning behind the scenes, the Bluethumb Art Prize 2023 Winners Announcement occurred in our flagship Richmond gallery on Thursday 26 October surrounded by the 2023 Finalists Exhibition. The gallery was filled with Bluethumb artists, collectors, team members, and, most notably, the judges and winners.
We received an astonishing 8,000+ entries, whittled down to 350 finalists across several categories. This year’s winners were selected by Bluethumb Art Prize 2022 overall winner Lauren Starr; top-selling Indigenous Artist Karen Lee Mungarrja; Kate Gordon, the Creative Director of iconic Australian family-owned Robert Gordon Pottery; Interior Designer and Director of TLC Interiors Chris Carroll; and National Magazine Editor of Domain Natalie Mortimer.
Bluethumb Art Prize 2023 Overall Winner: Serpent’s Coil by Ellie Sutton
Following Lauren Starr’s footsteps, Ellie Sutton has won the $50,000 Bluethumb Art Prize 2023 overall winnings. This is the emerging artist’s first Bluethumb Art Prize win. Congratulations to Ellie!
The rich brown lines in Ellie’s award-winning work, Serpent’s Coil, are reminiscent of earthy colours and textured tree bark. It evokes a primal connection to nature and invites viewers to reflect on the cyclical patterns of life. “Some lines are delicate; others are bold. All seem to hold secrets, whispering tales of this work’s hidden depths and subtle emotions,” Ellie explains.
“Serpent’s Coil “is a visual journey exploring movement, balance, and symbolism. This symbolism intertwines the mystique of serpents with the beauty of abstract expression. It beckons observers to explore the duality of darkness and light,” said the Blue Mountains resident.
“This recognition means more to me than words can express, as it symbolizes a journey filled with challenges and growth… Over the past two years, I faced a significant health battle, a formidable adversary that tested my resilience and determination. In the midst of this adversity, I found the courage, the necessary space, and the time to fully immerse myself in my artistic endeavours. This award truly is a testament to the power of resilience and the beauty of following your calling. It reinforced my belief that even in the most trying moments of life, there exists a guiding light that leads us to our true purpose,” said Ellie.
In judging the award-winning artwork, Kate Gordon described Serpent’s Coil as having “Glorious muddy, earthy colours, entwined and tangled, with movement and rhythm.”
Bluethumb Art Prize 2023 Category Winners
Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders Category Award: Layers 05 by Jessica Begg
West Australian artist Jessica Begg won the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Category Award with her contemporary artwork Layers 05. This painting holds great significance for Jessica, as it reflects a time when her mental health was at an all-time low, but only a few people knew about her inner struggles.
“What you show on the surface isn’t always what lies beneath,” explains Jessica. “Each individual has many layers of oneself that only a few will ever get to see.”
Jessica is a proud Noongar descendant residing on Yued land who embarked on her artistic journey to connect with her Aboriginal heritage. This link had been largely severed due to the experiences of her great-grandfather, who was tragically part of the stolen generation, assimilated into white society, and consequently, forced to relinquish his Aboriginal culture.
Portrait Category Award: Galvanize by Joshua Miels
South Australian artist Joshua Miels won the Portrait Category Award in the 2023 Bluethumb Art Prize. Joshua is a contemporary portrait artist based in Adelaide with a unique talent for unveiling the raw emotions his subjects try to hide from others. Spending countless hours adding layer upon layer of oil paint, Joshua reveals his subjects’ authentic selves.
“Winning the Bluethumb Art Prize category for portraiture is a very special moment,” said Joshua. “For me, this prize is about the recognition for the years spent alone in the studio working, always trying to better myself as an artist. There are times where I’ve doubted myself and my relevance in the art world. A moment like this reinforces that I do belong and need to keep going.”
The depth and complexity of his work, Galvanize, invites viewers to reflect upon their emotional landscape, drawing from personal experiences and memories. His canvases are mirrors, reflecting the intricacies of our humanity and reminding us of the beauty in our vulnerability.
Still Life Category Award: Plants Taste Better by Jessica Guthrie
The award-winning artwork was inspired by Arthur Streeton’s prophetic dystopian landscape paintings from the 1920s. It gently prompts viewers to contemplate their influence on pressing environmental concerns and their global impact, such as soil quality and food consumption. “My hope is that the viewer is prompted to have a further conversation about these issues to begin the catalyst for change,” the Sydney-based artist explains.
Lauren Starr, Bluethumb Art Prize 2022 overall winner and one of this year’s judges, said, “The subject matter and the carefully curated symbolism of this painting made it stand out from the crowd. More than ever, we need to be thinking about sustainability and where our food comes from: this still life voices contemporary concerns with the skill of the old masters.”
Photography Category Award: Blackwater – Emerge by Natalie Finney
Melbourne photographer Natalie Finney won the Bluethumb Art Prize Photography Category Award. Her photograph, titled Blackwater – Emerge, explores the fragility of youth and the precipice of teenhood. “Water nourishes and gives life to all forms, but blackwater suggests an element of foreboding danger,” the photographer explains.
“Piecing together fragments of memories from childhood and observing as my children navigate through their own, the images draw on themes of sanctity and transformation. They portray an angelic, dreamlike figure bathing in a pool of black water, glowing with flecks of fiery light, a hint to signs of the tempestuous hormone-driven world they will soon enter,” said Natalie.
“To win the Bluethumb Art Prize in the Photography category feels like an absolute dream. This artwork was created with my son and holds a special place in both our hearts, so to be acknowledged and awarded by the industry with this prize is not only thrilling but also a wonderful affirmation.”
When judging the award, Chris Carroll said, “The artwork invites you to ponder the subject with a captivating balance of light and dark, extraordinary detail and a sense of the unknown. Is it uplifting or eerie? Who is this child, and what are they experiencing? It’s a question to get lost in.”
Judge Natalie Mortimer expressed, “The interplay of light and dark elements in this artwork delves deeply into the profound journey of youth, artfully showcasing the subject’s delicate beauty in a way that’s both enigmatic and visually stunning.
Landscape & Wildlife Category Award: Bring Me A Higher Love by Sara Roberts
Sara Roberts won the highly competitive Bluethumb Art Prize Landscape & Wildlife Category Award for her artwork Bring Me A Higher Love. The contemporary painter from Shoalhaven is known for her unique approach to capturing the essence of thoughts and emotions on canvas.
Judge Lauren Starr said, “Looking closer into this painting was like having a secret revealed. It connected with a primal, human part of me. Fire and gathering is something we’ve done since the beginning of time. The brush strokes are mesmerising, and the contrasting light and dark of the sky and fire – glorious.”
When someone asks Sara what she does for a living, her six-year-old daughter Bella usually interjects and says: “She paints a LOT of fires”. Sara explains, “When I paint them, I feel like I might understand some hidden truth about humanity or get a glimpse of some secret revealed to me. Some poetic meaning about being alive and the magic of this world.”
“I have always just wanted to paint and Bluethumb has helped provide that opportunity for me as an artist! You have given me the time and freedom to explore my art practice and to find my voice as a painter which is the most valuable currency as a practicing artist. I am incredibly touched by the recognition.”
Founders Award: Arrangement With Purple by Wendy Moore
Brisbane-based contemporary artist Wendy Moore won the 2023 Bluethumb Art Prize Founders’ Award for her artwork Arrangement With Purple. She is the third recipient of this special award that began in 2021.
Wendy specialises in creating bold, large-scale abstract artworks that radiate a deep affection for life and vibrant hues. Her statement pieces on canvas and natural linen draw inspiration from the forms she encounters while travelling in Australia. Growing up in a rural town instilled this passion for landscape in her.
“My obsession with painting and art started when I was a young girl growing up in outback Queensland, being selected at the age of nine to attend the Flying Art School,” said Wendy. She only recently returned to full-time painting on canvas during the pandemic.
Bluethumb co-founders and brothers Edward and George Hartley judge this award for large statement pieces (at least 1.5m on one side) as this is the most popular and in-demand artwork on Bluethumb. George Hartley said, “Wendy joined Bluethumb last year and quickly became a star, creating these huge, fantastic floral abstracts. She’s sold 79 pieces already on us, and whenever we put one of her works in our gallery window, they literally stop traffic.”
Congratulations to our 2023 Bluethumb Art Prize winners! The 2023 Finalists Exhibition featuring the award-winning pieces will adorn the gallery walls until Monday 27 November. Click here to VOTE for your favourite finalists in the Peoples Choice and go in the draw to WIN $2,000 worth of art plus hand-painted pottery from Robert Gordon.