Finalists show their strength in the 2020 KWM Contemporary First Nations Art Award

Carolanne Ken, 'Minyma Makuli Tjukurpa' (crop). Courtesy of the artist and KWM.

Spurring on the next generation of First Nations artists, the 2020 King & Wood Malleson (KWM) Contemporary First Nations Art Award finalists have been announced, with 29 finalists selected from more than 60 entries received.

The 29 finalists are from around Australia, including eight artists from the Northern Territory, four from NSW, eight from Queensland, three from South Australia, four from Victoria and one from both Tasmania and Western Australia.

One local Victorian artist to be featured is Jenna Lee. Jenna Lee is Melbourne based and is a Larrakia, Wardaman and Karajarri woman whose contemporary art practice explores the acts of identity/identification, label/labelling and the relationships formed between language, label and object. Being a Queer, Mixed Race, Asian (Japanese, Chinese and Filipino), Anglo Australian, Aboriginal Woman, Lee’s practice is strongly influenced by her overlapping identities, childhood memory as well as maternal teachings of subject and process.

Jenna's finalist work a/mended with red volume 1 involves pages of the book Aboriginal Words and Place Names, linen bookbinding thread, red silk thread and red cotton thread. In her artist statement, Jenna says, "while simultaneously being dispossessed from land and waters and having children stolen, our words were served up with no connection to people or place in the form of ‘Aboriginal’ word-list dictionaries. a/mended with red volume 1 seeks to correct this offensive omission of agency and representation, by undergoing a transformative process of analysis, deconstruction and reconstruction. The resulting forms translate the original pages into a work of personal and cultural resilience, beauty and strength."

An expert judging panel comprised of renowned Victoria-based curators Myles Russell-Cook, a descendant of the Wotjobaluk people; Shonae Hobson, a Southern Kaantjuwoman; and Stacie Piper, a Wurundjeri and Dja Dja Wurrungwoman, selected this year’s finalists along with award Patron, Bundjalungman, Djon Mundine OAM.

This year the award criteria was expanded to incorporate additional media including sculptures, digital media, weaving and jewellery, resulting in a diverse range of submissions that showcase the outstanding artistic talent in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities throughout Australia.

A select few of the 2020 finalists this year

The 2020 finalists are: Amala Groom, Angkaliya Curtis, Ashlee Murray, Brian Robinson, Carmen Glynn-Braun, Carolanne Ken, Dhuwarrwarr Marika, Fiona Foley, Gordon Hookey, Helen Ganalmirriwuy, Ian Waldron, Jenna Lee, Joe Dhamanydji, Josh Muir, Judy Watson, Kait James, Karla Dickens, Kaye Brown, Maree Clarke, Marina Pumani Brown, Michael Cook, Michelle Woody, Patju Presley, Reggie Uluru, Richard Bell, Sally M Nangala Mulda, Samantha Hobson, Timothy Cook and Travis De Vries.

The finalists’ work is displayed in an online exhibition located on the KWM First Nations Art Award website. The winners of the KWM Contemporary First Nations Art Award will be announced on 3 November 2020, with an exhibition planned in Melbourne in July 2021 at fortyfivedownstairs.

Find out who wins the KWM Contemporary First Nations Art Award on BeMelbourne!

View the KWM First Nations Art Award website here.