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Taranaki artist takes out the top prize in inaugural sculpture award

A draped, intestine-like work made out of cow bone, and not, unfortunately, Conor Jeory’s conceptual artwork, Cargo, has won the inaugural Richard T Nelson Awards for Sculpture premier prize.

Taranaki-based artist Sam Kelly was awarded $15,000 for her entry, Wall Sculpture No. 5. Kelly has worked with bone for more than 12 years. While her jewellery has been exhibited nationally and internationally, for the past two years she has been exploring larger scale cow bone sculptures.

“It’s wonderful to get an award with no stipulations, just a recognition of the piece I made and my practice,” she says.

“I really enjoyed making this sculpture. It was made with no space or gallery in mind, just a pure piece to play with and explore new territory.”

Porirua’s Pataka Art Gallery and Museum director Reuben Friend spent a very long time looking at each artwork, marvelling at the ways the artists work with their media.

“I really love this work by Sam Kelly. It presents a visual trick: at first it looks like a piece of fabric flung over a rail that you want to grab, or like intestine, but on closer inspection you realise that it’s bone, it’s solid. Sam has treated her medium in a very intelligent way. You don’t get many artists working with bone at this level.

“It also references Aotearoa’s long history of bone carving and the economic relationship to cows — dairy and meat.”

The awards are sponsored by Wellington businessman, philanthropist and art collector Richard T Nelson, who has sponsored art awards at the NZ Art Show since 2012.

The award winners were announced at the NZ Art Show in Wellington over Queen’s Birthday weekend.

Five highly commended prizes of $1000 were awarded to:

• Strata II, a stoneware and ceramic piece by Yvonne Guillot from Wellington

• Bronzerrotype, a bronze sculptural interpretation of the Daguerrotype photographic process by Wellington artist Jonathan Campbell

• Macro-laminae by Kerikeri artist Chris Booth, a laminated plywood work inspired by coral fungi

• Still, a delicate jade, silver and gold work by Christchurch artist Jacqueline Morren

• Coupled, a geometrical work made from concrete rubble recycled from Wellington and Christchurch earthquakes’ sites by Porirua artist Stuart McPherson.

THE WINNER: Taranaki-based artist Sam Kelly’s Wall Sculpture No. 5 was placed first at the inaugural Richard T Nelson Awards for Sculpture. Picture supplied