Prestigious art prize kicks off festival

May 27, 2024 BY

Isabella MacKirdy has emerged as the winner of the 2024 John Shaw Neilson Acquisitive Art Prize – the announcement kickstarting the 2024 Penola Coonawarra Arts Festival last Thursday night.

The unveiling of the John Shaw Neilson Acquisitive Art Prize exhibition and the announcement of award winners has become the traditional opening to the four day arts event.

The John Shaw Neilson Acquisitive Art Prize is open to all emerging and established artists from throughout Australia and must be inspired by the works of famous Penola poet John Shaw Neilson. This event was created 31 years ago and has been growing in reputation every year. The major prize of $12,000 is again generously sponsored by The Balnaves Foundation.

Isabella’s ‘Scents of Spring’ was a highly detailed, stylised composition that evoked the harshness and the contemplative peace of rural life.

Painted in acrylic, Isabella’s delicately rendered painting celebrates the modesty and beauty of the Australian Native Blue Dampiera, a flower that typically blooms from late winter into spring.

The balance of the painting was created by the weighty-ness of the sharp, rusted blades, akin to Neilson’s line in his poem ‘To a blue flower’, …the rude heavy scent of the wool…’ celebrates the honest grit and beauty of day-to-day life.

The Lois Hodge Local Art Prize is valued at $1000 and sponsored by well known local artist Lois Hodge.

The 2024 winner was Dagny Strand’s ‘You and Yellow Air’ which captured a glimpse into a private moment of memory and reverie.

A solitary figure sits at a small table for two, his coffee cup just out of reach while his gaze is fixed ahead, as if deep in thought.

The figure is bathed in yellow light, conjuring Neilson’s evocative nostalgia of golden light and the follies and frivolity of youth and love.

Dagny’s painterly application and loose paintwork masterfully captures the dreamlike mood of the poem.

It was a big night for Natania Hollingsworth as well, securing a Highly Commended Award, sponsored by Penola High School, for her entry into the main prize as well as taking out the Design Prize, sponsored by Hansen Print.

Natania’s skilful work draws deeply from Neilson’s poem ‘The Soldier is Home’ and offers a psychological excavation of the ravages of war on the returned soldier.

Natania’s winning poster design saw her create a fabulous, multifaceted design that celebrates the rich history and diversity of the Penola Coonawarra Arts Festival.

The use of a central device of the tree and its branches evokes a sense of connection with this place; its terra rossa soil, strong history and the interconnectedness of arts, culture, food, wine and community.

The Packer’s Prize, sponsored by Framing Solutions, was won by Jaime Densley.

The John Shaw Neilson Art Prize continued its long standing relationship with the Art Gallery of South Australia with Emma Fey judging this year’s art prizes.

Emma is the Assistant Director of Operations for the Art Gallery of South Australia and was very impressed by the high quality of entries for the John Shaw Neilson Acquisitive Art Prize, the Local Art Prize and the Design Prize.