Prestigious Schenberg Art Fellowship awarded to Monash Student

Monash Art, Design and Architecture (MADA) student Erin Hallyburton has been awarded the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts’ (PICA) Schenberg Art Fellowship for her sculptural works.

Erin's work at the Hatched National Graduate Show. Picture: David Cox

The Schenberg Art Fellowship awards a cash prize of $35,000 to the most promising emerging artist featured in PICA’s Hatched National Graduate Show to further invest in their career.

She becomes the third Monash student to be awarded the fellowship in the past decade. No other art school has been awarded the fellowship as frequently in the last 10 years.

Erin’s work was selected from a pool of 61 talents by an esteemed panel of judges, including Amy Barrett-Lennard, Justine Ambrosio and Michael Bianco.

The judges reflected that Erin’s work was a complex engagement with materiality, process and form.

“Her use of waste oils and fats elicit a visceral response from viewers, in a refined and intriguing exploration of identity, class and the immigrant experience. Erin’s exquisitely paired back installation tests our perceptions” the judges said.

For Erin, winning the Schenberg Fellowship served as both an honour and a recognition of her hard work.

“It's incredible, I'm really humbled and I just feel really grateful and also really proud that my work got this kind of recognition” she said.

Monash’s Department Head of Fine Art Dr Spiros Panigirakis said that Erin’s success was a reflection of the community and research culture cultivated within the Monash Fine Art Honours program.

“The win is also a testament to the strong research culture nurtured in Monash’s Fine Art Honours program, one of the most rigorous of its kind in Australia, and the dedicated community that have underpinned this excellence over the years,” Dr Panigirakis said.

Erin Hallyburton is a Master of Fine Art student at MADA, her sculptural practice engages with fat studies and intersectional theory to examine the conceptual and material limits of the body, and how these limits manifest in certain sites.

Erin's sculptural work shines a light on the undefinable nature of fat. Picture: Andrew Curtis

Erin’s PICA installation is made up of three key components which all explore the complex theme of fatness:

The first piece is a triangular wedge composed of layers of clay, tallow and vegetable shortening, to create a marbled, layered effect. Here, the material is controlled and angular, challenging presupposed ideas of fat as soft and malleable.

The second piece is a series of cylindrical works. Waste oil is combined with water and caustic soda, becoming soap. The soap is used to cast cylindrical columns, reminiscent of pipes blocked by fatty material.

Finally the third component is a trio of benches, built from the recycled oil cans used to collect the waste oil found throughout the installation.

The aim of the installation was to highlight the multidimensionality of fatness and the unpredictable nature of fat as a material.

“I was trying to sort of show the material of fat and like all the different ways that it can behave”, she said.

“There's a lot of fluidity and slipperiness tied to the materiality of fat. I think that the undefinable nature of it is useful for combating stereotypes or categorizations of fatness in broader society.”

Erin’s PICA installation was initially inspired by her observations of a local Caulfield fish and chips store. The waste oil from Caulfield Fish and Chips was used to create the sculptural elements.

The sculptures were made using waste oil from a local Caulfield Fish and Chip shop. Picture: Andrew Curtis

“I was really interested in how fat is a material that's really central to the operation of the site,” explained Erin.

“It turns the raw fish and potatoes into a commodity and food, it also facilitates community interactions.”

“Erin's artwork fundamentally transforms our everyday experience of the local fish and chip shop through the most curious and compelling use of materials”, said Dr Spiros Panigirakis.

“She not only challenges how we understand our bodies in the space of the gallery, but places a critical lens on society at large.

Erin reflected that fatness, class and the immigrant experience coalesced in the shop.

“A fish and chip shop is often a source of income for immigrant families, and the food that is produced is often made cheap and accessible for people with low incomes.”

A prominent theme throughout Erin’s artwork is the examination of anti-fat ideologies throughout society.

“I consider myself to be a fat person, so it's something that I'm really passionate about, because it directly relates to my experience within the world,” she said.

“I'm passionate about making the bias and discrimination that fat people face every day visible, and also revealing like the richness of fatness and fat embodiment.”