Announcing this year's Meroogal Women's Art Prize winners

Acclaimed artist, Tamara Dean (Cambewarra) wins the Meroogal Women’s Art Prize for her “perfectly captured” photographic artwork, Transience – “a beautiful representation of the Meroogal house and garden,” according to Lisa Havilah, Director, Carriageworks and co-judge for this award.

Also awarded was Kim Davies (Katoomba), Second Prize for her fabric and wire Carpet Moth and Beth Norling (Dulwich Hill) was Highly Commended for her not all things are washed away ink and soap artwork.

From a total prize pool of over $10,000, Dean will receive $7000 and a prestigious Bundanon Trust artist-in-residence scholarship. Davies will receive $3000 and Norling gains an opportunity for a solo exhibition at Shoalhaven Regional Gallery. All three winning artists will receive a Sydney Living Museums membership.

The Meroogal Women’s Art Prize is a major event in the artistic calendar. From ceramics, to works on paper, paintings, textiles, weaving and woodwork, the Prize invites NSW female artists to create artworks, in any medium, that respond to Meroogal house: its fascinating history and collection of treasure.

This year, a distinguished panel of judges selected the three winners from an unprecedented 194 entries. 37 artworks have been selected to go on exhibit at Meroogal house and garden until March 2019.

The judging panel included:

  • Dr Caroline Butler-Bowdon, Acting Executive Director, Sydney Living Museums
  • Bronwyn Coulston, Unit Manager Arts & Culture, Shoalhaven City Council
  • Deborah Ely AM, CEO Bundanon Trust
  • Lisa Havilah, Director of Carriageworks

Located in Nowra on the NSW south coast, Meroogal is one of Sydney Living Museums’ 12 historic houses and museums. Once home to the Thorburn and MacGregor families, the charming property still overflows with their belongings, from favourite books and ornaments to furniture, photographs, diaries and journals.

“Each year, the Meroogal Women’s Art Prize brings new, creative interpretations of the personal stories of four generations of women who lived in the house,” said Joanna Nicholas, Curator, Sydney Living Museums.

For further information and list of finalists available, go to our Meroogal Women's Art Prize exhibition page.

Meroogal Women’s Art Prize is generously supported by Sydney Living Museums Foundation, Bundanon Trust and Shoalhaven Regional Gallery, Nowra.

  • Woman in hat with photographic work in frame.

    Tamara Dean, First Prize for Transience.

    Photo © Tim Pascoe / James Horan Pty Ltd for Sydney Living Museums

  • Woman with ornately embroidered moth artwork.

    Kim Davies, Second Prize for Carpet Moth.

    Photo © Tim Pascoe / James Horan Pty Ltd for Sydney Living Museums

  • Woman with series of small artworks on dresser.

    Beth Norling, Highly Commended for not all things are washed away.

    Photo © Tim Pascoe / James Horan Pty Ltd for Sydney Living Museums

Artists’ statements

1st Prize: Tamara Dean

Transience (photograph)

We are invited to interpret what has been left in place. The physical objects, the spaces, textures and marks. The narratives offered by the photographs, paintings and arrangements. Trying to find a connection to the domestic lives of the women, a bridge between the past and the present, I observe the simple play of light and shadow across the surface of the house. Always there, and ever changing through the years and seasons.

2nd Prize: Kim Davies

Carpet moth  (hessian, cotton fabric, woollen and cotton yarn, wire, upholstery tacks)

The residents of Meroogal would have been familiar with the biblical quote ‘Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt …’ I see this moth, with echoes of a carpet pattern from the house, as a tribute to the industriousness of the people who resided here, and to the role of the museum, now attempting to still the corruption of time, dust and moths so we may glance back and into the women’s everyday lives.

Highly Commended Award: Beth Norling

not all things are washed away (soap, ink)

In 1860 the McKenzie family survived a devastating flood in Terara [a town on the banks of the Shoalhaven River], losing everything except the grandfather clock that still stands at Meroogal. My work not all things are washed away explores the question: ‘what is left and what is lost?’ It depicts things that remain at Meroogal and imagines the moments that are forever gone. The technique of scrimshaw is relevant to the concept: ink is applied then washed away, the excess trapped in the scratches of the image beneath.

Judges’ quotes:

Sydney Living Museums has a long and proud history of creating opportunities for artists to be inspired by our places. The 2018 Meroogal Women’s Art Prize has produced exceptional works. This special house and its history is the springboard for beautiful works from painting, photography, sculpture, needlework – works that encourage you to think differently about this important place in NSW history. We are delighted to see the talent of women artists across New South Wales, providing a new lens through which to view this special place.

Dr Caroline Butler-Bowdon, Acting Executive Director, Sydney Living Museums

It is always a pleasure to be involved in the Meroogal Women’s Art Prize. This year we have seen a wide range of responses to the history and lives captured by this historic site and artists’ reflecting on the role of women, relationships and family across generations. Shoalhaven Regional Gallery are very pleased to support the prize and to provide an opportunity for one of these artists to have a further exhibition in the Shoalhaven, bringing a wider body of work to local audiences.

Bronwyn Coulston, Unit Manager – Arts & Culture, Shoalhaven City Council

Increasingly entrants to the Meroogal Women’s Art Prize reflect upon the psychological spaces, and broader social context, inhabited by the women rather than just their day to day interactions in the house. Many of the artists explore the unknown in the women’s lives – their longings and desires, as well as their frustrations. It is gratifying to see the increase in the number of established professional artists participating each year, alongside those with rising career profiles.

Deborah Ely AM, CEO, Bundanon Trust

Tamara Dean in her work Transience has perfectly captured the changing beauty and histories of Meroogal. The shadow cast by Banskia rose so beautifully represents the interconnectedness of the house and its gardens. Dean is a renowned Australian artist that lives and works locally, her understanding and connection of the house is articulated perfectly within this work.

Lisa Havilah, Director, Carriageworks

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