Monash University Fine Art graduates named finalists in $50k Australian art award

Renowned for its excellence in artistic innovation and creativity, Monash University Fine Art has two graduates shortlisted for the prestigious Hatched: National Graduate Show 2021 at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA).

The talented Bachelor of Fine Art students are among twenty-four graduates selected by PICA as the best of Australia’s emerging contemporary art scene. The winner will be presented with a career-launching $50,000 Schenberg Art Fellowship, allowing the recipient to continue to invest in the development of their artistic practice.

Image: Installation, by Bachelor of Fine Art (Honours) student Beth Maslen uses handmade glass pieces and simple sculptural gestures to open up a space.

Monash University Fine Art has a strong history of its graduates both being selected as finalists for this esteemed award and having multiple finalists go on to win the top prize.

Image: Bachelor of Fine Art Honours student Beth Maslen, winner of the Sue Rose Award at MADA Now 2020, says “Monash Fine Art fosters a community where artists are free to explore, experiment and unlock their artistic voice.” Image credit: Connor Bugelli

Bachelor of Fine Art graduate and PICA finalist Beth Maslen expressed how valuable the connections she made with academics at Monash were to developing her practices.

“They [the tutors] engage with you on a really unconditional and interested level… making such considered time for you and thinking deeply about your individual practice.”

Beth particularly wanted to thank the late John Nixon for his contribution to her practice. “After talking about my work, he’d rush up to me the next day, and tell me what he’s been thinking about overnight, about my work. He really cared, and that was so special.

The artistic and broader community was deeply saddened by John’s passing in 2020, but Beth emphasised that his encouragement and influence on her work has made such an enduring impact on her practice.

As Beth pursues her Bachelor of Fine Art (Honours) year at Monash, she explains that the relationship she is developing with her mentor has been incredibly generative, “I’m excited about learning at a deeper level this year and extending my artistic practice”.

Beth’s methodology centres around deep research practices, manifesting as elegant sculptural pieces that incorporate both found objects and handmade glass pieces. For the work that earned her the position as a finalist in this year’s awards, Beth explained, “I wanted to use simple sculptural gestures to open up a space… with these pieces encouraging a deep experience of seeing and alternative ways of thinking and knowing.”

The work plays with frequencies of seeing – its sight responsiveness deliberately emphasising the importance of presence in a place, rather than rushed disconnection from the things that presently surround us.

Before moving to Melbourne to attend Monash, Beth worked as a part of the install team for PICA. She reminisced that being a finalist was something she had always aspired for, but never imagined achieving!

“For me, just getting selected is the prize. I’m looking forward to meeting new artists and creatives from the art world, I feel like I’ve already won… Still, if I were to win, it would mean I would be able to sustain my practice outside of an institution and afford my own space to continue to make and develop my work. Which would honestly be amazing.”

Image: Bachelor of Fine Art student Michael Tuhanuku, pictured in his artwork Taku Tangatupu’a/My story, a spoken word video art piece that won the Anton Herman Social Justice Award.

Michael Tuhanuku, also expressed this honour and excitement after being announced as a finalist. Having already received the Anton Herman Social Justice Award for his graduate year piece, Michael has been overwhelmed with the positive reception his artwork has received and is grateful for the recognition the work has earned as it helps to further his creative intentions.

“Winning a spot in a competition was never a focus or goal of this work but to have that recognition is important for young First Nations artist which is something that has definitely boosted my confidence as an artist.”

Michael explained, “Growing up, I always gravitated towards stories that resemble my own but sometimes this was not easy to find as a mixed raced Tongaba man from the Solomon Islands. Now I look to share things that I wish I had access to growing up. The work is based around the tradition of storytelling that my people have practised for a very long time. However, the story I tell is a new and confusing one. Through the lens of my lived experiences, I explore the trials and tribulations of finding place and identity in a cultural and political landscape that is constantly shifting.”

Michael particularly wanted to thank the teachers and mentors who “gave space and recognition to me and my work as a First Nation artist. They offered constructive criticism, different perspectives and a new way of approaching art and drawing out what it is I wanted to express as an artist. Still, the most significant moments in my fine arts studies was to be lucky enough to have fellow First Nations artists like Monash PhD candidate Moorina Bonini and Tamsen Hopkinson mentor me and help show the way for a young First Nations artist.

Monash University Head of Fine Art and renowned Australian artist, Professor Kathy Temin expressed on behalf of the staff and students, “I’m extremely proud of Michael and Beth for being named finalists in the graduate showcase. Their artworks are a wonderful contribution to the exhibition and give an insight into how Monash University Fine Art is fostering a community of future artists who graduate with a critically informed studio practice.”

Hatched: National Graduate Show is on at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts from 8 May to 11 July 2021.

Author Grace Watson is a curator, writer and arts educator working on the Wurundjeri and Bunurong lands of the Kulin nations. Her work and research focus on drawing connections between historical and contemporary theories and practices. Grace is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Fine Art (Honours) in Art Curation at Monash University.

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