Sharnie Shield wearing part of her first-prize-winning artwork Collars in the afternoon in the bedroom at Meroogal. Photo © James Horan for Sydney Living Museums.

Meroogal Women's Art Prize 2014

This year, for the first time, the Meroogal Women’s Art Prize is being held on site at Meroogal. The artworks are woven throughout the house in an exhibition that unfolds gradually as you wander through the rooms.

A collaborative tradition

The Meroogal Women’s Art Prize (MWAP) has been run by Sydney Living Museums (SLM) since 1998, and has become a key event in the artistic calendar of the Shoalhaven and wider NSW South Coast regions. Artists are tasked with creating works that respond to the architecture, stories and sense of place at Meroogal (built 1885), a carpenter gothic style house in Nowra that was home to four generations of women from the Thorburn and Macgregor families. The prize continues SLM’s collaborative tradition of inviting contemporary artists into our places.

The response this year has been remarkable. In 2014 MWAP was extended and opened up to all female artists across NSW. We received 182 entries, some from as far away as Bathurst and Newcastle, as well as many from metropolitan Sydney. The prize maintained its strong local following with 20 out of the 34 artists selected for the exhibition hailing from the Shoalhaven, South Coast and Southern Highlands areas.

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Brown haired woman with red lipstick holds up a white framed painting
Nicolette Eisdell with her third-prize-winning oil painting, The drawing room at Meroogal. Photo © James Horan for Sydney Living Museums.

Artists in the house

The artworks demonstrate the artists‘ high level of engagement with the architecture, stories and collection at Meroogal. Artists bring a fresh perspective to our museums, often picking up on the little-known stories, or bringing the intangible to the surface. For MWAP 2014, artists created works in a wide range of media, including painting, printmaking, video, sound, installation, paper craft, textiles and assemblage.

Many of the works are site specific. Anna Glynn’s audio installation Letters to Tot: a conversation across time, with musical interludes features newly made recordings of some of the sheet music held in the Meroogal collection, while Linda Dening’s installation Let your hair down, a carefully crafted timber and horsehair broom that won second prize, hangs elegantly from the main beam in the laundry. A small, beautifully executed oil painting The drawing room at Meroogal, by Sydney artist Nicolette Eisdell, took out third prize.

A play on the collection

The artwork that won first prize, Collars in the afternoon by Austinmer artist Sharnie Shield, is both site-specific and interactive. Shield’s work is an innovative and playful take on the beautiful lace collars made by the women who lived at Meroogal. The work reimagines the collars in crafted paper printed with refracted, digitally manipulated images that were taken throughout the house and garden. Shield was inspired by the museum’s fragile collection, which visitors can look at but not touch. She has created a ‘wearable’ range of collars that is both visually appealing and witty.

Thanks to the generosity of the Sydney Living Museums Foundation the prize pool for 2014 was increased to $10,000. The winner of the first prize was awarded $6000 as well as a
coveted artist residency at the Bundanon Trust.

A young boy in a blue shirt, Curator Anna and a young girl in a pink dress with lacing.
Malley Wiggins, SLM curator Anna Corkhill and Claudia Pickett playing with Sharnie Shield’s interactive artwork Collars in the afternoon. Photo © James Horan for Sydney Living Museums.

About the Author

Woman with shirtsleeves rolled up leaning on wall of old shed.
Anna Corkhill
Former assistant curator
Elizabeth Farm, Rouse Hill House & Farm and Meroogal
Anna Corkhill has been fascinated by houses for as long as she can remember.At last count she has lived in...

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