La Prairie
Thea Anamara Perkins Warren Ball Avenue 2023 acrylic on board 30.5 x 40.5 cm. Courtesy the artist

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA: Members of the media met with the art world inside the Art Gallery Of New South Wales on the evening of March 14 to celebrate Arrernte and Kalkadoon artist Thea Anamara Perkins as she received the 2023 recipient of the La Prairie Art Award.

An accolade which champions the work of Australian female artists, the Art Gallery of NSW and the Swiss luxury skincare house selected Perkins’ moving and intimate quartet of portraits, titled Warren Ball Avenue, to receive the financial grant, and a trip to Switzerland to attend Art Basel international art fair in June.

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The portraits are each inspired by Perkins’ own family archive of photographs and depict striking depictions of both First Nations people and of Country. Up close, you can almost feel the swelling of emotions in each brush stroke as it caresses milestone moments in the artist’s family history: a birthday cake at a children’s party; a 1960s scene on Bondi Beach with Perkins’ grandfather, mother and uncle; Perkins’s mother and grandfather at his university graduation ceremony; and a portrait of her grandfather and aunt at Telegraph Station in Mparntwe/Alice Springs, a site of historical significance to the family.

“I believe it’s crucial that artists are well supported to create their work. I’m really excited by the international residency with La Prairie,” says Perkins. “It’s invaluable to have this opportunity to extend my practice internationally, especially as a First Nations artist.”

La Prairie
Thea Anamara Perkins, Bondi Beach 2023, acrylic on board, 30.5 x 40.5 cm. Courtesy the artist
La Prairie
Thea Anamara Perkins The Graduation 2023, acrylic on board, 30.5 x 40.5 cm, Art Gallery of New South Wales, La Prairie Art Award 2023 © Thea Anamara Perkins, image © Art Gallery of New South Wales
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“My work delves into my family archives of photographs, and through the painting process, communicates the essence of these images,” she continues. “Fleeting, yet suspended in time, they are storied, and coloured by my own emotions and memories. They seek to express the love and strength in First Nations families and situate these instances of joy and belonging, or ‘glimmers’ into our collective imagination.”

La Prairie
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 14: Arrernte and Kalkadoon artist Thea Anamara Perkins is announced as the 2023 La Prairie Art Award recipient at Art Gallery Of NSW on March 14, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. The La Prairie Art Award supports Australian women artists with an acquisitive prize and an international residency in Switzerland. (Photo by Don Arnold/WireImage)

Art Gallery of NSW senior curator of Australian contemporary art Isobel Parker Philip cited Perkins’ innate way of re-working and transforming photographs.

“[Perkins] understands photography’s capacity to isolate and memorialise particular moments in time,” Philip says. “This, paired with her unique approach to line, colour and form, lends her work an emotive resonance. Transient moments are encoded and commemorated in the gentle yet precise gestures of her brushstrokes.”

La Prairie
Thea Anamara Perkins, The Bungalow 2023, acrylic on board, 40.5 x 30.5 cm. Courtesy the artist

It is truly remarkable how Perkins has been able to resurface the depth of the moments captured in each photograph. Her works will be on display in the South Building of the Art Gallery Of NSW until March 19 2023, and then will be on display as part of the free exhibition The National 4: Australian Art Now until July 23 2023.

Viewing Perkins’ works online does not do it justice. You simply must see it in person!

For more information about the La Prairie Art Award, visit the Art Gallery of NSW website.