The series of self-portraits wins the first La Prairie Art Award

The winner of the inaugural La Prairie Art Award is Melbourne-based artist Atong Atem. The Acquisitive Award recognizes the work of Australian women artists and is presented by the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney and La Prairie, a Swiss luxury skincare house.

© Atong Atem. A yellow dress, a bouquet 2022. Art Gallery of New South Wales, La Prairie Art Award 2022.

The new partnership supports Australian women artists through the development or expansion of a new body of work, with the aim of supporting and nurturing the practice of grantees as well as increasing their international profile.

Atem is an Ethiopian-born South Sudanese artist and writer who works primarily in photography, often using portraiture to explore migrant stories and postcolonial histories of the African diaspora and examine lines of community and connection. She has been awarded for her originality and her ambitious and dynamic photographic portraits that celebrate their subjects. As part of her award, she will receive an international artist residency and will also travel to Zurich, Switzerland, and attend the international art fair Art Basel as a VIP guest of the Swiss luxury house.

A yellow dress, a bouquet 2022 is a sequential self-portrait composed of five photographs in which Atem appears in close-up, his face painted in bright colors. In this work, she gestures towards the tropes of classical Western painting traditions, through the postures she adopts and the symmetry of the sequence, while maintaining what she calls a “resolutely African postcolonial aesthetic style”. through an emphatic use of color and color. texture.

On receiving the La Prairie Art Award, Atem said, “I am extremely proud to win an award dedicated to contemporary Australian female artists, especially knowing how many remarkable female artists are working in Australia today. I am delighted that this major work has been acquired by the Art Gallery and I would like to thank La Prairie for giving me the opportunity to create new avenues for my international career.

Art Gallery of NSW Senior Curator of Australian Contemporary Art Isobel Parker Philip said: “In A yellow dress, a bouquetAtem extends his constant preoccupation with the self-portrait and builds on the stylistic ways of his beginnings. Studio Series from 2015 which responded in part to the history of mid-20th century African studio portraiture, in particular the work of Malick Sidibé and Seydou Keïta.

“Through his hyper-stylized costumes and make-up, Atem draws attention to the showmanship inherent in the studio scene, but this ornamentation also carries political weight. For Atem, makeup is a symbol of aesthetic alienation and a reaction against the idealization of whiteness.

The Art Gallery of NSW will be exhibiting the winning works of the La Prairie Art Award 2022 until Sunday 22 May 2022.

About the artist

Atong Atem (1991) is an Ethiopian-born South Sudanese artist and writer based in Naarm/Melbourne who works primarily with photography. She often uses portraiture to explore the stories of migrants and the postcolonial stories of the African diaspora.

Atem explores the concepts of home and identity through a critical and sentimental lens and references the work of photographers Malick Sidibe and Seydou Keita and science fiction writers such as Octavia Butler as tools for navigating spaces. liminals.

Atem has exhibited his work across Australia including the National Gallery of Victoria, MUMA Monash, Gertrude Contemporary, Australian Center for Contemporary Art and internationally at Red Hook Labs in New York, vogue Milan fashion fair and Unseen Amsterdam art fair.

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