Bluethumb Art Prize 2021 Winners Just Announced!
After months of behind-the-scenes action, the Bluethumb Art Prize winners ceremony was held for a second time virtually yesterday evening. At 6.30pm, Thursday 18th November, we took to both Facebook and Instagram for this prestigious event. In many ways, the event brought a silver lining to what was for many Australians a very challenging year. Following in the footsteps of Hubert Pareroultja, Loribelle Spirovski has won the $20,000 Bluethumb Art Prize 2021, scoring her second major prize this year after taking home the Naked & Nude Art Prize in August. A huge congratulations to Loribelle!
Bluethumb Art Prize 2021 Overall Winner: Mirror into Mirror by Loribelle Spirovski
Loribelle was chosen as the winner by an all-star artist judging panel including Ken Done, Kathrin Longhurst, Bronwyn Bancroft and last year’s winner Hubert Pareroultja from 6,542 entries – possibly an Australian record for entries in a major prize – and smashed Bluethumb’s previous record by over 4,000.
We spoke to Loribelle on her win, to which she said: “I’m so honoured to be the recipient of this year’s Bluethumb Art Prize and Portrait Award. What an amazing way to end a crazy year!”
Loribelle’s winning work, Mirror into Mirror, was painted in the middle of lockdown and is a fitting tribute to the isolating times. “The subject of this portrait is my husband Simon, who was the only person I was able to interact with for many months. Added to our isolation, we were in the process of moving house and I found myself viewing him as a mirror of my own isolation.” This artwork was also chosen as the Portrait Award winner; keep reading to find the judges’ comments on the piece!
Bluethumb Art Prize Category Winners
Landscape Award Winner: Yapalpa/ Glen Helen, NT by Kathy Inkamala
Kathy Inkamala hails from an extraordinary family of watercolourists with Hermannsburg mission lltja Ntjarra Many Hands Art Centre. Her bold and colourful artwork, Yapalpa/ Glen Helen, NT, depicts her grandfather’s country in the West McDonnell Ranges. In a personal take to the landscape, we see Yapalpa, or Glen Helen, where the artist often goes to swim or enjoy a picnic, then returns to paint as much detail of this special place with the fluid vibrancy of her watercolours.
Runner-Up: How fast are you going now? by Blak Douglas
How fast are you going now? by Blak Douglas was selected for the work’s use of strong visual language. Within this piece, we find references to colonial rule, political tension at the time as well as critical issues in society.
Art Prize judge Kathrin Longhurst described this piece as one that really ‘cut to her heart’. In her words: “Blak Douglas is one of the leading voices in contemporary Aboriginal art today. His passion for the environment and our first nations people transpires in every work he does.[…] [The works] often remind us of the graphic simplicity of political propaganda posters. His paintings plead for your attention[…]. Such an important work.”
Portrait Award Winner: Mirror into Mirror by Loribelle Spirovski
It should be mentioned that the high calibre of portraiture in this year’s art prize undoubtedly made judging the category a difficult feat. The winner of the Portrait award, Loribelle Spirovski, had two sublime finalist entries alone. However, Mirror into Mirror was considered the stand-out. Judge Ken Done considered the work an “incredibly competent portrait. It’s simple, strong, direct and brilliantly executed.”
Likewise, Kathrin Longhurst commented: “I adore this sensitive and masterly painted lockdown portrait of this artist’s husband. It is so unusual to see this kind of vulnerability especially in a male sitter, something so rare to achieve unless the sitter and model know each other intimately and have full trust. It is simple in its composition but there is a depth of emotion and expression in his face that hits you deeply and brings back all the feeling from our own locked down period. Just beautiful.”
Runner-Up: Tay by Kim Leutwyler
Our Portrait Award runner-up, Kim Leutwyler, is one of Australia’s leading LGBTQIA+ artists and activists; a strong voice in the queer community that has moved from strength to strength over the last 6 years since joining Bluethumb. Her entry Tay shows non-binary artist Tay Haggarty in a harness.
Sculpture Award Winner: Down by the river by Joseph Turrin
Joseph Turrin‘s winning piece Down by the river traverses his interest in the history of ceramics, textiles and nature. As a new artist to Bluethumb, Joseph’s work was considered playful in manner with clay coil-building in his chosen medium of ceramics.
Runner-Up: Heaven and Earth by Todd Simpson
Whilst the runner up for the Sculpture Award is no stranger to Bluethumb or to art prizes in general, it was a delight for the Bluethumb team to see Todd Simpson exploring a new medium to such a high standard. Exploring the intersection between Heaven and Earth, the form of the sculpture changes dramatically depending on the angle it’s being viewed as the transparent colours, shapes and perspex sheets interact. Where heaven – represented in yellow – and earth (the blue sphere) overlap, there is an abundance of green symbolising life.
“A big thank you to Bluethumb, the judges and sponsors,” Todd commented on the news. “I’m thrilled to be runner-up in the sculpture prize and congratulations to the other winners. The Bluethumb Art Prize is a great opportunity for artists to showcase their creations to a new audience and winning this award is a big source of encouragement in what can otherwise be a very solo pursuit.”
Still Life Award Winner: Turquoise Glass and the Harlequin Blanket by Alicia Cornwell
“I feel like I have finally come full circle after completing a Degree in Fine Art in my twenties and then moving away into another career path,” Alicia Cornwell told the team when we spoke about her winning entry, Turquoise Glass and the Harlequin Blanket. “I felt the very strong pull back to my artistic roots only three years ago when I sold my business and moved to painting full time. I hadn’t painted for a long time so I worked hard every day at relearning and unlearning working with oils… What a revelation, what a joy, finally being my authentic self!
“Winning the Still Life Award in the Bluethumb Art Prize 2021, such a celebration of life choices… This win brought me to tears when I found out. Seriously, I’m talking weak at the knees, so unexpected. The thought that those truly amazing and iconic judges saw something in my work that made it stand out to them – wow! Thank you!
“And not only that, the continuing and ongoing support and encouragement from Bluethumb – I do hope the wonderful people there know what that means to us artists closed up in our studios working away, it means the absolute world!”
Runner-Up: Shadowbloom Series: One by Tania Samuel
With its sense of monochrome drama and movement, the white bearded iris in Shadowbloom Series: One was a perfect subject matter for a shadowy botanical still life. Ken Done mentioned: “To paint these beautiful flowers in black and white shows how fabulous the shapes of the blooms are and makes a dynamic pattern across the canvas.”
“I thought the standard of work for this year’s Bluethumb Art Prize was incredibly high and so I am absolutely delighted to have been a runner-up for the Still Life Award,” Tania said on the news. “Thank you Bluethumb for your support to Australian artists and your contribution to the broader art world.”
Digital Award Winner: Digital Dogs by Brad Robson
Our winner of the Digital Award, Brad Robson, paints both traditionally and digitally, works of pop culture nostalgia – then, as our Co-Founder George Hartley says, subjects them to attack. The favourite digital art entry of our judge Ken Done, this artist is fast making a name for himself internationally with his groundbreaking NFT art.
Runner-Up: Abandoned on Blvd D’Anfa by Cat Wilson
Artist Cat Wilson was inspired to create the piece Abandoned on Blvd D’Anfa forms part of whilst she was living in Casablanca, Morocco. “Taking photographs of white buildings against clear blue skies, I fragmented and mirrored them using the same principles applied in tradition Islamic design,” she explains. “The process abstracts the buildings from their original form and this new entity floats in front of blueprints of pencil-line drawings of traditional Islamic patterns.”
On hearing the news of her runner-up position in this year’s Bluethumb Art Prize, Cat Wilson responded to the win in delight: “It has been a fantastic experience participating in the Bluethumb Art Prize 2021 and having my work included among so many wonderful finalists. I am absolutely thrilled to receive this award. My thanks to all the judges and organisers.”
Photography Award Winner: Memento Mori – Colour Flower Feast by Lauren Starr
Inspired by traditional Dutch still life paintings centring around themes of Vanitas and Memento Mori, this piece was photographed in regional Victoria using local flora and classic motifs of mortality in the form of skulls, birds and shells.
“I was utterly speechless when I received the call to say that I’d won the photography category in the Bluethumb art prize,” Lauren tells us. “As the news sunk in, I proceeded to jump up and down, scream and run around the house. To be a working artist, and be officially recognised for all the blood, sweat and tears? That’s priceless. The calibre of entries was incredibly high; each was deserving of winning, which makes me feel incredibly humble and proud to have been selected. Today it was my turn and I am beyond joyful.”
Runner-Up: Mariner Mission by Andrew Rovenko
Mariner Mission was chosen by our judges as an outstanding example of skill and originality. Judge Kathrin Longhurst describes the image as striking “a perfect balance between endearing and disturbing [..] I am really in love with this series of little rocket girl exploring a deserted city during lockdown. She feels like a complete foreigner in the urban landscape protected by her space suit. The effect is twofold, it lets the viewer discover their own backyard anew through the eyes of a child, but we also feel a sense of separation from the environment through the protective layer of that space suit.”
When the news was shared with photographer Andrew Rovenko, he said: “Thank you to the Bluethumb team and the community of artists and collectors, your work and support are just incredible. It’s an absolute honour and privilege to be named a runner-up in the Photography category. The judges must have had an absolutely impossible task of selecting the winners from so many great submissions by such talented and esteemed artists.
“For me personally, with my photo project being born out of the lockdown – such recognition is just another proof that sometimes good things can come out from less than perfect situations, so I really appreciate everyone’s support on this most rewarding journey. Thank you!”
Abstract Award Winner: Burn Off by Kayleigh Heydon
In her own words, Kayleigh Heydon’s winning piece Burn Off was inspired by the ritual burn offs that happen in Australia in the early dry season. “The intense controlled fire, with plumes of smoke move across the landscape to decrease the devastation of possible bushfires. The fast movement of the fire is depicted in the quick moving and expressive marks against an early evening sky, with smoke pluming above.”
“Huge thank you the judges for taking the time to look at my work, what an incredible compliment to win!” Kayleigh responded when hearing she had won the Abstract Award. “I still can’t believe it. The competition was really tough, looking through all the entries, I was blown away by all of the amazing work. I really didn’t consider that I might win. This morning I said to my partner that being a finalist was already a huge win for me.
Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Award Winner: Cape Byron by Anthony Walker
This year’s winner was quite divergent in style to previous years. In the artist Anthony Walker’s own words, the artwork Cape Byron “features a unique view from the base of Walgun (Cape Byron) in Byron Bay. By superimposing traditional Aboriginal iconography over landscapes that are both familiar and distinctive, the covertly political series [this piece forms part of] welcomes viewers to look afresh at Country from a new perspective: a perspective that explicitly acknowledges ‘always was, always will be’ Aboriginal land.”
“I’m super happy about winning this award,” Anthony commented. “It’s humbling that the feelings I’ve expressed in my painting have struck a chord with the judges. This artwork is special to me – it’s a personal expression of my connection to this place I love and visit daily – a view of Arakwal Country from a First Nations perspective. I feel really grateful and want to thank the Bluethumb staff and the art prize judges.”
Runner-Up: Lukarrara Jukurrpa (Desert Fringe-rush Seed Dreaming) by Gloria Napangardi Gill
This year’s Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander runner-up is Gloria Napangardi Gill, a Balgo artist from art centre Warlukurlangu. A story that relates to the communities of women and men around the region, Lukarrara Jukurrpa (Desert Fringe-rush Seed Dreaming) takes an immense scale of intricate patterns and colour use. The Melbourne team at Bluethumb are lucky enough to have this particular piece in the gallery, and at two metres by two metres, it’s a mammoth-sized, breathtaking artwork!
Founders Award Winner: Buzz by Brad Holland
“Founding a creative startup is all about big dreams, and facing big risks. Many artists face and embrace these on a daily basis,” said Bluethumb co-founder and managing director Edward Hartley during the live awards ceremony broadcast on Instagram. “We’re especially proud of artists who are taking the leap from a secure job to becoming a full-time artist. Bluethumb was founded for these moments. So we wanted to establish the Founders’ Award for artists with large scale works and big ambitions. Not the usual art prize category, but fitting for Bluethumb.” This year’s winner for the introduction of the award is South Australian artist, Brad Holland, with his piece Buzz.
“Huge thanks to my partner Penny and daughter Maddy for their continuous support, encouragement and belief in me,” Brad tells us. “To my parents for fostering my early artistic pursuits and to my uni mates Troy and Greg, who all those years ago, helped define my attitude to art as a process of fun and experimentation.
“Thankyou to Bluethumb for supporting Australian Art giving thousands of Artists the opportunity to pursue their dreams. Shout out to Amélia and Eden for showing my work at the Adelaide gallery. What a fantastic people to deal with.
“Finally thankyou to the little blue bee that provided the colour palette for my entry. The smallest detail can often provide the biggest statement. Sometimes it’s just a matter of looking.”
This Year’s Prizes
This year, we doubled the overall prize winner’s money to $20,000. With all eight category awards worth $3,000, totalling $50,000 of cash prizes. The standard of entries was so high last year that they also decided to introduce a runner-up award in each category to give more artists the chance to step into the spotlight, sponsored by Eckersley’s Art & Craft.
Thanks to major sponsor 1 Denison, North Sydney’s new tallest building, we’ll be hosting a winners exhibition in March 2022 in 1 Denison’s exhibition space.
Have Your Say
You can now vote for your five favourite artworks from the 400 finalists. Not only will you help the artists get one vote closer to winning Bluethumb’s $3,000 People’s Choice Award, sponsored by Fantastic Framing, you’ll also go in the running to win one of your votes valued up to $2,000. Click here to cast your vote. Voting closes 6th December 2021.
You can catch up or re-watch the awards ceremony on our Instagram at any time – click here to see the highlights from the prize and our best event yet!