The inaugural ART 150 Fellowship winner – and a raft of new art prizes

By Paul Dalgarno

The inaugural ART 150 Fellowship was awarded last night to graduating Master of Contemporary Art (MCA) student Aya Hamamoto, as one of several new prizes and scholarships for graduating visual art students at the Victorian College of the Arts.

Hamamoto, from Japan, who is currently exhibiting as part of the VCA Art Masters Exhibition, was awarded $10,000 in a presentation on the VCA’s Southbank Campus.

VCA Art’s Dr Kate Just addresses the crowd at last night’s awards ceremony. By Drew Echberg.

The ART 150 Fellowship was established in the wake of this year’s 9X5 NOW show, which saw more than 350 staff and alumni of VCA Art donate original artworks for a landmark exhibition at the Margaret Lawrence Gallery, with proceeds from sales going towards an annual Fellowship for a graduating undergraduate or Masters visual art student.

“I want to express gratitude to the 350 artists who have contributed to this award, which will help me to develop my arts practice next year and in the future,” said Hamamoto. “It’s a great honour to have received this award from so many different artists from across the VCA.”

Senior Lecturer in Visual Art Stephen Haley earlier this year described Hamamoto’s 2014 work Contemporary Documentation of Repetition – a blend of images, video and performance art commemorating the sudden and untimely death of Hamamoto’s sister – as “immersive, stately, beautiful, heart-wrenching and simply stunning,” and “the most emotionally-affecting artwork I have seen in years, and possibly ever”.

Dr Elizabeth Gower, who curated 9X5 NOW, said the Fellowship would continue to hold a particular resonance for emerging artists.

“The special thing about this Fellowship is that it’s presented by all the alumni who donated works to 9X5 NOW,” she said. “It’s a unique and generous gift from one generation of artists to those now following in their footsteps.”

Director of the VCA Professor Jon Cattapan, who presented the awards, described the ART 150 Fellowship as a “great new addition to our prizes”.

“For someone working full-time, $10,000 may not seem like a huge amount of money but for an emerging artist at the start of their career it can mean the difference between being able to continue and having to walk away.”

Professor Cattapan thanked donors behind the continuing VCA Art awards and new awards during the presentation. Among the new prizes is the Wingate Student Fellowship, worth $9,000, which was awarded to graduating Master of Fine Art (MFA) student and course valedictorian Will Heathcote.

VCA Director Professor Jon Cattapan with the Wingate Student Fellowship winner Will Heathcote. By Drew Echberg.

Bachelor of Fine Arts graduating student Freya Porges won the newly-established Tatana Mihulka Art Encouragement Award, created in memory of Tatana Mihulka. The award, worth $2,000, is offered to a student whose work challenges conventional society or focuses on change through painting or sculpture.

Two of the new awards went to graduating MFA student Katie West, an interdisciplinary artist exploring the renewal of human connections with and within the natural environment, who is also showing as part of the VCA Art Masters Exhibition

The Falls Creek Resort Indigenous Art Award, in addition to a cash prize of $1,000, will see West take up a six-week residency at Falls Creek Resort next year, while the Dominik Mersch Gallery Award will fund and provide mentorship for an all-expenses-paid solo exhibition at the Sydney gallery in 2018.

Katie West, winner of the Falls Creek Resort Indigenous Art Award and Dominik Mersch Gallery Award. By Drew Echberg.

West, a Yindjibarndi woman originally from Noongar Booja (Perth and surrounding areas) in Western Australia, said she felt “quite shocked” to be recognised with the two awards. “My work’s pretty minimal and sensitive so I didn’t really expect to do so well,” she said. “I’ve never been to Falls Creek but I do a lot of natural dyeing so it does make sense to be on country, collecting materials and working there. And winning the Dominik Mersch Gallery Award is just amazing. To be mentored ahead of mounting a solo exhibition is a huge deal.”

Gallery owner Dominik Mersch, who selected West’s work and attended last night’s awards ceremony, said the award provided a “great opportunity for a young artist”.

“I’m a very emotional guy,” he said. “When work by an artist touches me I get goosebumps and Katie’s work touched me on lots of different levels. It also really sits well with my stable of artists, many of whom, like Katie, deal with nature and the environment.”

Katie West and Dominik Mersch. By Drew Echberg.

The new Hamilton Art Gallery Exhibition Award, which will see three graduating VCA Art students exhibit at the gallery in 2018, was presented to Ali McCann, Phebe Parisia and Samuel Szwarcbord, and the winner of the new Peter Redlich Memorial Art Prize, worth $10,000, will be announced on Wednesday.


Update, 7 December: The Peter Redlich Memorial Art Prize was won by MFA graduating student Shane Nicholas on 6 December, 2017.

Banner image: Documentation of Repetition (2014) by Aya Hamamoto. Image courtesy of the artist.

The full list of visual art prize winners for 2017 is below.


ART 150 Fellowship: Aya Hamamoto

Domink Mersch Gallery Award: Katie West

Falls Creek Resort Indigenous Art Award: Katie West

Fiona Myer Award: Clara Gladstone

Fiona Myer Award: Lucia Rossi

Fiona Myer Award: Octora

Fiona Myer Award: Will Heathcote

Fiona Myer Berlin Studio Residency: Archie Barry

Fiona Myer Internship: Jeremy Eaton

Galloway Lawson Prize: Farnaz Dadfar

gogo Art Series Encouragement Award: Ali McCann

Hamillton Gallery 2018 Exhibition: Ali McCann

Hamillton Gallery 2018 Exhibition: Phebe Parisia

Hamillton Gallery 2018 Exhibition: Samuel Szwarcbord

Lionel Gell Foundation Masters Award: ChaoHui Xie

The Peter Redlich Memorial Art Prize: Shane Nicholas

National Gallery of Victoria Women’s Association Award: Katie Sfetkedis

National Gallery of Victoria Women’s Association Award: Samuel Szwarcbord

National Gallery of Victoria Women’s Association Award: Siying Zhou

National Gallery of Victoria Women’s Association Award: Vivian Cooper Smith

The Athenaeum Club Visual Arts Research: Siri Hayes

The Chin Chin Wall of Art Encouragement Award: Samuel Szwarcbord

Ursula Hoff Institute Inc. Drawing Award: Phebe Parisia

Wingate Fellowship: Will Heathcote



Bus Project Awards: Matilda Davis

Chin Chin Wall of Art Exhibition: Claudia Gleave

Dr David Rosenthal Award: Caitlin O’Grady

Evans Family Award for Photography: Nick Archer

Fiona Myer Award (Honours): Ashley Perry & Sienna Van Rossum

Fiona Myer Award (Drawing & Printmedia): Ben Stephens & Anatol Pitt

Fiona Myer Award (Painting): Casey Jeffery & Jacqueline Clare Smith

Fiona Myer Award (Photography): Guy Grabowsky & Nick James Archer

Fiona Myer Award (Sculpture & Spatial Practice): Yan Yang & Nicola Lewis

Garry Grossbard Drawing Prize: Evita Siketa

gogo Art Series Award: Jana Moser

Irene Sutton Award: Elias Arce Toner

Lionel Gell Foundation Award: Jana Moser

LON Gallery Award: Georgie North

Lowensteins Arts Management Prize: Olga Bennett

Majlis Encouragement Award (Drawing & Printmedia): David Lowe & Rebecca Riggs

Majlis Encouragement Award (Painting): Georgie North & Miles Davis

Majlis Encouragement Award (Sculpture & Spatial Practice): Kate McGain & Dominic Sargent

Majlis Encouragement Award (Photography): Liam Denny & Dustin Davies

Majlis Encouragement Award (Honours): Marlee McMahon & Matt Bailey

Mt Buller Residency: Guy Grabowsky

National Gallery of Victoria Women’s Association Awards (Honours): Ellen Son

National Gallery of Victoria Women’s Association Awards (Photography): Esther Brierly & David Borg

National Gallery of Victoria Women’s Association Awards (Painting): Lauren Brown & Tia Ansell

National Gallery of Victoria Women’s Association Awards (Drawing and Printmedia): Sunny He, Matilda Davis & Madeline Nibali

National Gallery of Victoria Women’s Association Awards (Sculpture & Spatial Practice): Yuval Rosinger

NAVA Ignition Membership: Katrina Dobbs

Orloff Family Charitable Trust Award (Sculpture & Spatial Practice): Megan Kennedy

Orloff Family Charitable Trust Award (Honours): Mel Dixon

Perrin Sculpture Foundry Award: Samuel Soames

Rob Ramage Sculpture Award: Maggie Clare

Rodger Davies Award: Eric Jong

Rosemary Ricker Award: Jason Willers

Stella Dilger Encouragement Award: Jacquelin Owers-Gayst

Tatana Mihulka Art Encouragement Award: Freya Porges

The Blair Trethowan TCB Art Inc. Award: Freya Porges

The Plumm Wine Glass Award: Claire Mercer

The Stoner Award: Nicola Lewis

The Sydney Canvas Company Prize for Painting: Nicholas Mullaly

Tolarno Hotel VCA Annual Art Award: Harry Hughes

Trocardero – Gallery 2 Award: Yan Yang

Trocardero – Nooky Award: Benjamin Baker

Ursula Hoff Institute Inc Drawing Award (Painting): Anneke Wood

Ursula Hoff Institute Inc Drawing Award (Drawing & Printmedia): Isabella Millner-Cretney

West Space Noticeboard Award: Benjamin Baker

William Ballantyne Memorial Award: Trent Crawford