Nina Sanadze takes out the 2021 Major Prize

26/10/2021

Melbourne-based artist Nina Sanadze was announced as the winner of the churchie emerging art prize 2021 at the IMA on Friday night. Sanadze took home the $15,000 non-acquisitive cash prize donated by long-standing sponsors of ‘the churchie’, BSPN Architecture. She was selected as the Major Prize winner by guest judge Rhana Devenport ONZM, Director of the Art Gallery of South Australia.

The Georgian-born artist’s sculptural work is constructed from the surviving studio archive of prominent Soviet monumental sculptor, Valentin Topuridze (1907-1980), whose public sculptures were torn down in 1989 with the fall of the Soviet regime. Judge Rhana Devenport explained, in the winning work: “Plaster models, moulds and fragments are rescued and accumulated to form unexpected conversations as limbs, bodies, horses and uniforms entwine in a tumbling concatenation of loss and hope.”

On Sanadze’s practice, Devenport commented: “Drawing on her own familial history in Georgia (former USSR), Nina Sanadze is compelled to respond to some of the great forces of our time—ideology, authority, monuments, conflict and survival—amidst the transient yet insistent fabric of memory, beauty and tenderness. Evocative and dramatic, Nina transforms the once victorious into a tumbling morphic vortex of fragility.” Devenport remarked that Sanadze “possesses a powerful ability to draw on the political, the familial and the poetic with great clarity and aesthetic poignancy.”

In addition to the Major Prize, a Special Commendation Prize of $5,000, sponsored by Fardoulys Constructions, was awarded to Brisbane-based Kyra Mancktelow and two Commendation prizes of $1,000, sponsored by Madison Cleaning Services, were awarded to Sydney-based Riana Head-Toussaint and Brisbane-based Visaya Hoffie.

Kyra Mancktelow’s Special Commendation is yet another accolade after her recent acceptance of the Emerging Artists Award at the NATSIAA Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards. Judge Rhana Devenport noted: “Through her beautiful prints, objects, and body adornments, Quandamooka artist Kyra Mancktelow addresses the fraught legacies of a traumatic and complex colonial past.”

Riana Head-Toussaint’s video work First Language (2020) is a meditation on movement; it considers the inherent choreography at play in wheelchair use. Devenport described it as “an arresting and sensuous time-based work.” On Visaya Hoffie’s multimedia installation, the judge said: “Popular culture and hierarchies of information collide in this playful and anarchic assemblage of materials, forms and imagery.”

Now in its 34th year, ‘the churchie’ has become one of Australia’s leading prizes for emerging artists, platforming up-and-coming contemporary artists on a national stage. The prize winners were selected from 14 finalists whose artworks are now on display in an exhibition at Fortitude Valley’s Institute of Modern Art. These artists—whose work span painting, video, sculpture, printmaking, ceramics, installation and more—were selected from almost 500 entries. The finalists’ exhibition at the IMA provides a survey of the pressing artistic concerns of early-career artists from across Australia following a year of extraordinary events and was curated by artist, writer and curator Grace Herbert in a role sponsored by Armitstead ART Consulting.

The finalists' exhibition continues until 18 December 2021.