Ramsay Art Prize Goes to Ida Sophia

Australia’s most generous prize for under forties awarded to Adelaide-based artist.

Words: Erin Irwin

The judges of the Ramsay Art Prize have selected performance artist Ida Sophia for top spot, awarding her $100,000 in winnings. Hosted by the Art Gallery of South Australia, the prize is open to any Australian artist under the age of 40. Sophia’s performance-based video work Witness was unanimously selected by Aaron Seeto, Director of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Nusantara, Jakarta, Perth-based visual artist and creative producer Erin Coates and Nici Cumpston OAM, AGSA’s Artistic Director of Tarnanthi and Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art.

“Ida Sophia’s winning work impressed us with its sophisticated concept, personal symbolism, and emotional connection to the site of performance”, said Seeto, “we were particularly struck by the integration of durational performance and its translation into video, which created a visceral experience for the viewer”.

Witness is a 12-minute video work shot in a single take, recording a performance inspired by the artist’s childhood experience, having observed her father’s baptism and been subject to his religious fervour. Conceptualised within a practice that transforms personal experiences into experiental works that convey universalised ideas and emotions, in this work Sophia has subjected her own body to an intense series of submersions in order to convey familiar notions of bleak persistence in the service of family and love. The work was recorded at The Pool of Siloam in Beachport, South Australia, named after the site in Jerusalem where Jesus restores a blind man’s sight.

“The Ramsay Art Prize sets out to elevate and accelerate careers for contemporary Australian artists”, says Art Gallery of South Australia Director Rhana Devenport ONZM, “Ida Sophia is clearly at a pivotal point in her career – her winning work Witness is technically and conceptually resolved, capturing the breadth of her practice to this point”.

Sophia’s work, alongside the work of the 22 other finalists, is on show at the Art Gallery of South Australia until 27 August.

The prize’s other finalists included Abdul AbdullahCarla AdamsBadra AjiTom BlakeYuriyal Eric BridgemanEmma BuswellJacobus CaponeSundari Carmody, Corban Clause WilliamsHenry CurchodSarah DrinanZaachariaha FieldingAidan GagelerOlive Gill-HillePascale GiorgiNadia HernándezAlana HuntAlfred LoweGian ManikDaniel McKewenAmy Perejuan-CaponeAlison PuruntatameriJD ReformaTeho RopeyarnYasmin Smith and Katie West.

This article was posted 29 May 2023.

Image: Ida Sophia, Witness, 2022. Courtesy: the artist and Ramsay Art Prize.


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