Salote Tawale wins 2020 Mosman Art Prize

Fiji-born painter takes out the $50k prize.

Words: Yasmine Masi

Mosman Art Gallery has announced Fiji-born artist Salote Tawale as the winner of the 2020 Mosman Art Prize. The painter was awarded $AU50,000 for her acrylic portrait of an unknown face wearing an adornment made from repurposed materials, titled Mangroves (2020).

Well-known for her performance-based videos and installations, Tawale’s prize winning work brings her practice to life on canvas, with an add-on tactile feature made from Pacific-patterned sulu material and tarpaulin. The artist combines the intangibility of art with an element of physicality, presenting a perspective on her experiences of colonial histories blending with local cultures.

“A detached head bowed in contemplation or maybe in sorrow. On face value they are quite similar gestures,” she says. “The wallpaper behind is not a luscious plant but a weed or a marshy grass. I come from the mangroves in Noco in the Fiji Islands but I also have an Australian European settler colonial background. Through this work, I consolidate these legacies and disconnections, whilst contemplating an unknown future.”

Tawale was presented with first prize by 2020 judge, Alexie Glass-Kantor, executive director of Artspace in Sydney, at the announcement event streamed live on Facebook on Tuesday evening. She described Tawale’s winning work as “extraordinary”.

Glass-Kantor continues: “The painting is an eloquent and considered homage to the idea of who Salote is and the contemporary world she inhabits, as well as the history and traditions that she has inherited through generations of women and community.”

Tawale’s work will now enter the Mosman Art Collection, a prominent historic collection that has appraised Australian painting since 1947.

A total of $61,000 in prize money was awarded to artists across four categories. Other wins included the Margaret Olley Commendation Award, taken out by Melbourne artist Stieg Persson; the Allan Gamble Award, awarded to Sydney artist PhilJames; and the Guy Warren Emerging Artists’ Award, won by Sydney ceramicist Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran.

The finalist works be on show at Mosman Art Gallery, Sydney, from Wednesday 26 August to Sunday 4 October.

Image: Salote Tawale, Mangroves, 2020. Acrylic on canvas, 95 x 77cm. Courtesy: the artist and Mosman Art Gallery, Sydney.

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