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Salote Tawale wins 2020 Mosman Art Prize

26 August 2020

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

About Salote Tawale

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, most notably at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne; Sydney Festival; Campbelltown Arts Centre, Sydney, Spring Workshop & Para Site Gallery, Hong Kong. In 2016, Tawale participated in the Indigenous Visual & Digital residency program at the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada, and in 2017 received the inaugural Create NSW Visual Arts Midcareer/Established Fellowship. In 2018-2019, she undertook an Australia Council for the Arts six-month studio residency in London. 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 on the evening of Tuesday 25 August at Mosman Art Gallery, Sydney.

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).

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.”

Mosman Mayor, Councillor Carolyn Corrigan says: “In these difficult times, Mosman Council remains committed to continuing its support of art and artists. Council is proud to present the 2020 Mosman Art Prize, the oldest and most prestigious municipal art award in Australia, and I personally congratulate all finalists.”

A total of $61,000 in prize money was awarded to artists across four categories:

Major Prize (acquisitive) $50,000 – Supported by Mosman Council
Winner: Salote Tawale (Sydney)
for Mangroves, 2020, acrylic on canvas, 95 × 77 cm

Margaret Olley Commendation Award $6,000 – Supported by Gillian and the late Brian Jones
Winner: Stieg Persson (Melbourne)
for Lido, 2019, oil on canvas, 122 × 112 cm

Allan Gamble Award $3,000 – Supported by Christine and the late Hugh Fraser
Winner: Phil James (Sydney)
for Landscape composition 1, 2020, oil on vintage offset lithograph, 71 × 80 cm

Guy Warren Emerging Artists’ Award $2,000 – Supported by Fourth Village Providore
Winner: Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran (Sydney)
for Ascension, with Hog and Alter Ego, 2020, oil on linen on Tasmanian oak, 255 × 63 cm

2020 Mosman Art Prize Details
  • Mosman Art Prize – 73 years in 2020
  • On show Wednesday 26 August to Sunday 4 October 2020
  • Presented at Mosman Art Gallery, 1 Art Gallery Way, Mosman NSW 2088
  • Exhibition is free to the public
  • Gallery is open 7 days, 10am – 4pm. Closed public holidays.
  • 02 9978 4178
  • Public programs including an artist talks event (which will also be streamed live on social media) will accompany the exhibition
  • Visitors to the exhibition can vote for the Viewers’ Choice Award which will be announced prior to the exhibition closing