Connecting Through the Canvas with Sunshine Coast Art Prize

Image source: Contributed

Australian artists are inspiring us to challenge our worldviews and better understand ourselves and each other. Georgia Beard previews their diverse works on show at Caloundra Regional Gallery’s 17th annual Sunshine Coast Art Prize.

Abstract reimaginings of love, friendship and society’s conflicts;  coastlines, city streets and ordinary lives rich with memory and emotion; confronting shapes and experiences, urging us to look away yet cementing our eyes on the canvas, making a connection. 

The latest multifaceted art exhibition has been unveiled on the walls of Caloundra Regional Gallery as the Sunshine Coast Art Prize returns for its 17th year with 40 contemporary works by artists from across Australia.

Sunshine Coast Art Collection Curator Nina Shadforth said the exhibition sends out a national call for artists to best showcase the current contemporary art landscape in Australia.

“In amongst this year’s cohort, there’s a really good mix of local artists, First Nations artists, emerging, mid-career and the more seasoned, established artists,” she said.

“From a curatorial perspective, we love to present an art award exhibition like this because in terms of taste, there’s always something for everyone, meaning that more people can connect with art, and we find that gratifying.”

Curated from 487 submissions, the display covers a variety of genres and media – from abstraction, landscape, portraiture and still life through to a range of media such as photography, digital stills, drawing, painting, relief prints and watercolours. Each offers a perspective unique to the artist – a fleeting moment in time; an homage to heritage or a demand for social change. 

What makes these works so compelling are the diverse experiences reaching out to the viewer. They disturb us, comfort us and empower us. They encourage empathy for those outside our daily awareness. They satisfy the questions inside us that have been unanswered for too long. 

“Art can have a powerful magnetic effect, attracting anyone purely by the impact of a visual image,” Nina said. “Art also has the power through a visual language to expose onlookers to different points of view, whether it’s a social injustice issue or an environmental topic. Then, it may just be a simple matter of the artwork rendered in the viewer’s favourite colour or favourite place!”

This year, three artists from the Sunshine Coast invite us into their personal lives and philosophies. 

Inspired by nature wanderings near her Mt Mellum home, Cholena Hughes’s cyanotype Her Journey uses ochre and acrylic paint to resemble a journey of life and spirit and connection to nature and Country.

Highly Commended for 3D and New Media at the 40 Under 40 Exhibition this year, Jordyn Burnett’s Lumps & Bumps celebrates diversity and body positivity with an animated self-portrait. The Alexandra Heads artist welcomes us into her struggles with pregnancy and body dysmorphia, using movement to change expectations of one’s form.

Coolum Beach artist Casey Hewitt encourages the viewer to drink an ethereal sense of calm and presence in the safe embrace of a backyard. Her oil on canvas work, When did I start holding my breath? examines memories of times past like water – stagnant, depleting, or plentiful.

“When you come visit the exhibition, it is up to you, the visitor, to chart your own way through the 40 finalist artworks without judgement or coercion of a specific perspective,” Nina said. “In essence, we have no expectations that you as a visitor need to have the foundational knowledge of art history, but if you walk away with a new perspective on something then that’s a bonus.

“If there is an artwork that you really like, you have the opportunity to cast a vote in the People’s Choice award, or better still, make it yours as the works are available for sale.

“This is a contemporary art prize exhibition after all, and you don’t need to know something about art to walk into the Gallery. Come in and explore what artists are talking about, or simply just enjoy the Gallery space and the range of local artisan giftware on display.”

In addition to the ever-evolving exhibitions at Caloundra Regional Gallery, the Sunshine Coast Art Prize is one of the main means for the Sunshine Coast Art Collection to acquire new works of contemporary Australian Art. The Collection is a continuously growing cultural asset of artworks curated to encourage enjoyment and awareness of the visual arts, contributing to the cultural development and engagement of the community and visitors to the Sunshine Coast.


26 August to 16 October; Winners announced 6 October

Prizes and Supporters

Major prize: $25,000 sponsored by Argon Law and Sunshine Coast Council

Highly Commended prize: $5,000 sponsored by the De Deyne Family

People’s Choice prize: $2,500 sponsored by the Caloundra Chamber of Commerce

Art prize vehicles: supported by Coastline BMW

Artist Residency: supported by Montville Country Cabins

Artwork transport and logistics: supported by International Art Services (IAS)

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