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2020 Mosman Art Prize Winner: Meet Salote Tawale

The 2020 Mosman Art Prize – Australia’s oldest and most recognised local government art award – has been awarded to Sydney-based Fijian artist Salote Tawale.

Tawale has won the $50,000 acquisitive main prize for Mangroves, 2020, an acrylic on canvas hanging painting which now enters the celebrated Mosman Art Collection, a valuable and historic collection that surveys Australian painting since 1947.

Salote Tawale, Mangroves, 2020, acrylic on canvas, 95 x 77 cm.

More widely known for her performance-based videos and installations, Tawale’s winning entry is a portrait of an unknown face against a soft pink background. Above the head sits an adornment made from repurposed materials.

Tawale says: “A detached head bowed in contemplation or maybe in sorrow, on face value they are quite similar gestures. The wallpaper behind is not a luscious plant but a weed or a marshy grass. A rosette and ribbon sit at the top of the head, made from Pacific patterned sulu material and tarpaulin… 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. I would like to pay my respects and acknowledge that these contemplations take place, and this work was made, on the land of the Gadigal and Wangal peoples of the Eora Nation, where sovereignty was never ceded.”

Salote Tawale Image: Art Collector

Born in Fiji in 1976, Salote Tawale completed an undergraduate degree in Media Arts and a Master of Art at RMIT University, Melbourne, and more recently obtained a Master of Fine Art at Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney. For over 15 years, she has exhibited and performed nationally and internationally. Tawale was recently appointed Associate Lecturer of Screen Arts at Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney.

Tawale was presented with the first prize of $50,000 by 2020 judge, Alexie Glass-Kantor, Executive Director of Artspace, Sydney at a small announcement event which was streamed live on Facebook.

Commenting on the winning work, Alexie Glass-Kantor says: “Working in the expanded field of painting, this extraordinary textured and collaged portrait touches on themes of ancestral history, memory, transmission, migration, displacement, language and culture. 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. It is important to recognise that Salote is an artist achieving at the highest level of artistic production through installation, film and painting. An emerging leader in Australian contemporary art, she is a conceptually rigorous artist working at the forefront of experimental painting. I am delighted that an artist of Salote’s inimitable talent and ambition is the recipient of this year’s Mosman Art Prize.”

Further awards presented on the night included the Margaret Olley Commendation Award ($6,000) given to Stieg Persson (Melbourne), the Allan Gamble Award (for built environment) valued at $3,000 won by Phil James (Sydney), and the Guy Warren Emerging Artists’ Award ($2,000) presented to Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran (Sydney).

Above (left to right): Stieg Persson, Lido, Phil JamesLandscape composition, Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran, Ascension, with Hog and Alter Ego

The 2020 Mosman Art Prize attracted over 580 entries from across Australia with 79 paintings selected for the finalist exhibition. Commenting on the exhibition this year, John Cheeseman, Director, Mosman Art Gallery says: “This is an outstanding exhibition that acts as a snapshot of contemporary painting in Australia. This year’s judge, Alexie Glass-Kantor, has done a phenomenal job in selecting all the finalists and in adjudicating the winning entries. Artists should be proud of their achievement in being selected and audiences will experience some of the best and most significant artworks being made in Australia today.”

The Mosman Art Prize exhibition is on at Mosman Art Gallery until Sunday October 4
1 Art Gallery Way Mosman
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mosmanartgallery.org.au