River of Art Prize Awards 2023

Bessie Nunes wins River of Art Prize 2023

Congo artist Bessie Nunes won the 2023 River of Art Prize on Friday afternoon with a captivating 1.2 metre ceramic and mixed medium sculpture titled  ‘Tales of Flame’

Topped by a life-like glossy black cockatoo perched on a plynth of native plants and seeds, the piece proved irresistible to judges Helen Maxwell and Andrew Gray and the 150 art lovers who had gathered for the launch.

Bessie Nunes, 'Tales of Flame', 48 x 128 x 48cm, ceramic and mixed media sculpture.
Runner Up: David Walker

Runner-up was awarded to Guerilla Bay artist David Walker for ‘Seasons’, a piece of four jewellery pendants made from thermal and reclaimed plastics set within a steel frame and hung with a steel cord.

David is part of the Guerilla Bay Quartet, an  Open Studio collaboration on the final day of the River of Art Trail, September 24.

David Walker, Seasons, 8x8x0.5cm each, hung with a steel cord. $2200, $550ea.
Highly Commended: Indira Carmichael

Highly Commended was awarded to Batehaven artist Indira Carmichael for her work ‘Daphne in the Laurel Leaves’, a mixed medium of pencil, ink and stitch on paper.

During the festival don’t miss Indira’s collaborative exhibition with Lee Honey, Familiar, which opens on September 16. Get in quick to be one of the lucky few to attend a drawing class on September 23.

Indira Carmichael, 'Daphne in the Laurel Leaves', 50 x 66cm, Pencil, ink, stitch on paper.

A record turnout and a mixed bag for the judges

Judges were Andrew Gray, Executive Director of South East Arts and Helen Maxwell OAM, founder of the Australian Girls Own Gallery (aGOG), Helen Maxwell Gallery, art valuer and curator.

Helen said both she and Andrew were impressed with the high standard of technical execution and pleased that the natural environment of the South Coast continues to generate creative inspiration among creatives.

“It was great to see so many artists experimenting with the sculptural form,” she said.

“We were very impressed with both the high standard and the number of different mediums the artists have thought creatively about and incorporated into their works.”

Andrew said ‘Tales of Flames’ was a bold and in some ways ‘monumental’ work.

“We were definitely drawn to Tales of Flame, it is a largely ceramic sculptural piece that is very well executed technically,” he said.

“It clearly references regeneration after the bushfires. That event and the devastation of the environment is still an influential one for many of the artists in this region, but this one does so in a joyous way.”

Judges were also intrigued by ‘Seasons’ a set of four pendants by Guerilla Bay artist David Walker.

Created by a mix of thermal and reclaimed plastic, set in steel and hung with a wire cord, the judges were delighted with the play traditional and modern techniques and appearances.

“David Walkers pieces are beautifully made jewellery that are thematically set while working as individual pieces,” Andrew said.

“They were in fact surprisingly light in feel. We were intrigued by the technical execution of abstract painting in polymer, rooted in the tradition of silversmith.”

Helen agreed, adding that they reference the older technique of enamelling on metal.

“In this case he’s worked with melted plastic and pigment. They are very light and airy, like the seasons, and this will be good for the wearer too.”

Batehaven’s Indira Carmichael already has a busy festival ahead and it is off to a great start with the judges choosing “Daphne in the Laurel Leaves’ for Highly Commended.

“It is a beautiful portrait,” Andrew said.

“It is revealed through the laurel, which on closer inspection has a textural and three dimensional aspect through needlework and coloured ink on paper.”

Indira writes “Daphne’s rejection of Apollo’s unsolicited advances challenges the Crown of Laurels as a symbol of victory and honour.”

Festival chair Leanne Joyce said the exhibition attracted a record 67 entries, with 33 finalists chosen from across Eurobodalla, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.

“A big congratulations to our winners, Bessie, David and Indie, all three were present during the announcements and it was wonderful to share in their celebration,” she said.

“We were thrilled to support some emerging artists who have never shown before and welcome back some celebrated and familiar faces.”

“One artist said ‘I am a winner because I’m a finalist’, which is a beautiful sentiment and a heartwarming one for us.”

“It’s a real milestone for them after months of work, and for some, years of practice.”

River of Art Prize is on exhibition at Bay Pavilion from now until September 24.