The finalists have been chosen for the inaugural Ramsay Art Prize, Australia’s most generous prize for young contemporary artists. An acquisitive award presented by the Art Gallery of South Australia, the $100,000 Prize invites submissions across any medium from Australian contemporary artists under the age of 40. Held every two years, it aims to support and encourage artists to produce their best work during the developing stages of their career.

“The Ramsay Art Prize is an important legacy project for the Art Gallery of South Australia that we hope will build confidence in Australian artist, foster young talent and change the way young artists are valued in the canon of contemporary art,” said Nick Mitzevich, Director of the Art Gallery of South Australia.

Ramsay Art Prize FinalistNatalya Hughes, Australia, born 1977, Olympia, 2016, giclee print on arches paper, 65 x 95 cm; Courtesy artist and  Milani Gallery, Brisbane. Photo © Carl Warner

“Generally speaking, artists make their mark early – they establish a signature that is then honed but often their early work is brave, fresh and career defining,” he said. “Tom Roberts painted A break away! when he was 35 years old, proving that artists often hit their heights in their early years and that opportunities early on are formative and can change the nature of Australian art.”

Over 450 artists submitted entries for the newly introduced Prize. The 21 finalists were selected by a judging panel of contemporary art specialists including Director of the Auckland Art Gallery, Rhana Devenport; Australian artist Nell; and the Art Gallery of South Australia’s Curator of Contemporary Art, Leigh Robb.

“This prize represents a rare combination of opportunities – to be included in a curated exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia; to be acquired into the Gallery’s collection and to receive a major financial reward that will fuel future work. For all the finalists the very opportunity to be selected for exhibition at the Art Gallery is immeasurable,” Nell said.

Works submitted by the finalists will be shown in a major exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia from May 27 to August 27, 2017. The winner will be judged from the exhibition and announced on May 26. Finalists are also eligible for a People’s Choice Prize, voted on by visitors to the exhibition and worth $15,000.

The finalists are:

Tony Albert (NSW) – a politically motivated artist provoked by stereotypical representations of Indigenous people, and the colonial history that attempts to define him and what Indigeneity is in the present.

Khadim Ali (NSW) – rich in traditional and modern motifs of Eastern and Western art-historical references, Ali’s paintings tell stories about loss (of his own cultural heritage and of human values) and about how meaning shifts as words and images are perverted through ideological adoption.

Jacobus Capone (WA) – a Perth based artist working within durational performance, installation, painting and video.

Celeste Chandler (VIC) – Chandler’s artwork is concerned with the experience of embodiment and empathy; the intersection between the internal and external worlds that meet in the visceral sensations of the body – and, specifically, how this can be expressed in representational painting.

Sarah Contos (NSW) – an artist interested in identity, eroticism, femininity, popular culture and history.

Georgina Cue (VIC) – Cue’s multidisciplinary practice incorporates installation, embroidery, woodcarving and set design to create immersive environments that traverse the pictorial and physical, past and present, fictional and real.

Keg de Souza (NSW) ­­– an artist working between the disciplines of architecture, food, film, mapping and dialogical projects to explore the politics of space.

Julie Fragar (QLD) – Fragar’s visual arts practice is centred on painting and its relationship to human subjects and authors.

Teelah George (WA) – George’s practice looks at archival information and processes as a way to examine the relationship between narrative and representation, excavating the parallel ambiguities in both historical record and visual art.

Natalya Hughes (NSW) – working broadly across painting, print, animation and installation, Hughes conflates the boundaries between beauty and the grotesque, realism and abstraction.

Trent Jansen (NSW) – a designer interested in issues of sustainability, Jansen makes object from recycled materials.

Ash Keating (VIC) – a visual artist interested in creating pieces that challenge the visual aspect of urban planning.

Owen Leong (NSW) – an artist who explores the transmission of culture and the body as a physical site of exchange for social, culture and political forces.

Vincent Namatjira (SA) – Namatjira’s work explores Australia’s colonial history, with recurring references to Captain Cook and the Queen. His observational works also chart his personal history and pay tribute to his great grandfather, the renowned watercolourist Albert Namatjira.

Joey Nganjmirra (NT) – an artist and ceremonial dancer from Oenpelli in Eastern Arnhem Land.

Baden Pailthorpe (NSW) – Pailthorpe’s body of work and artistic practice is heavily shaped by Internet culture, engaging with themes such as power, politics and capitalism.

Clare Peake (WA) – Peake’s artistic practice takes form as both drawing and small-scale sculpture, exploring how knowledge and ideas are accumulated and configured.

Jason Phu (NSW) – Phu describes his work as being “about things I see, like a bird pooping on a man’s head”, and explores the mixed cultural identities of Australians with a sense of humour.

Rebecca Selleck (ACT) – a Canberra-based artist with a focus on multidisciplinary sculpture and digital photography.

James Tylor (SA) – Tylors’ artistic practice examines concepts of cultural identity in Australian contemporary society and social history.

Justine Varga (NSW) – Varga creates photographic works from an intimate exchange between a strip of film and the work that comes to be inscribed on it. She aims to complicate both the act of looking and the experience of time.

The 2017 Ramsay Art Prize Finalist Exhibition is at Art Gallery of South Australia May 27 – August 27. The winner of the Ramsay Art Prize will be announced May 26.