Bluethumb has announced its list of winners for the Bluethumb Art Prize 18, Australia’s Biggest New Art Prize! This prestigious annual award cultivates the awareness of Australian artists by supporting and celebrating their talent and diversity. With an impressive 2,346 entries that doubles the entries of last year’s inaugural prize, 30 finalists were selected from a pool of 100 semi-finalists.

Four category awards were announced during the opening night reception: Works on Canvas and Board, Works on Paper, Photography and Other Media. The most outstanding of these four artworks received an overall prize of $10,000. Additionally, all finalists were made eligible for the People’s Choice Award.

Enjoy this mini interview with Kim Hyunji who won the $10,000 overall Bluethumb Art Prize 18! Kim is also the winner of the Works on Canvas and Board as well as the People’s Choice!

Photo credits to Megan George.

Kim, congratulations on being selected as the Works on Canvas and overall winner of the Bluethumb Art Prize! PLUS People’s Choice! What do you feel this means for you and how will it affect your work to come?

I don’t usually get any reviews or reactions about my creations so winning the Bluethumb award has shown me that my works can appeal to a larger audience. I intend to use the prize money to get better quality canvases and materials and continue making work. Thank you so much for giving me this award!

Describe your reaction to the news.


What was the creative process like when you first decided to enter the Bluethumb Art Prize? And what expectations did you have?

I didn’t have any expectations to win this award, but thought it will be great to be in the finalist at least. After I graduated art school, in Western Australia, I entered so many art awards but never ever got into any of them  (well actually I was in 1 art award before this haha) and  most of the time, I wasn’t even eligible to enter the prize as I’m a foreigner.

I love Australia, and love my friends here. I’ve tried applying for an Artist Visa in the past but needed to show my involvement in the art scene here, which was difficult without being able to enter prizes so thank you Bluethumb for showing me the possibility.

Your painting was endorsed as the panel’s favourite among the finalists. Will you tell us about “Luke”?

Luke is super talented emerging tattooist from Western Australia. When I first met him, in my old studio in Fremantle, I asked him to sit for me because I liked his face. Even if my works are categorized as portraiture, I don’t really project any personal feelings onto my models while I’m painting, I consciously try not to. I more so steal their facial features and expressions and I tend to express my feelings by borrowing their face. Through Luke’s face, I wanted to explore the possible anxieties faced by individuals of our generation, living in the first world.
We live in a very different environment from the past, the accessibility of the Internet and social network services seem to affect our way of perceiving relationships or self-observing/reflecting, and how we formulate our egos and access memories. I think this has made our generation more shallow and vulnerable. As a theme, I want to focus on anxiety as being a potential result of these digital spaces as a contributor to inner conflicts. Also through this portraiture, I wanted to explore the painting medium through the combined effect of the figurative and abstract painting and spontaneous methodology.

In terms of exhibitions, work in progress, plans, and hopes… what’s on the horizon, Kim?

I have been busy organizing this group exhibition ‘ANON’ for last couple of months. I have asked some of my favorite Australian artists to consider the potential of the anonymous subject within portraiture. The idea of anonymity is left open to the artist’s interpretation, this could extend to the unknown or unknowable subject; or a subject rendered in a way that makes them unrecognizable. We want to focus on the potential of portraiture as a point of reference that allows an artist to explore more complex and complicated themes than the valorization of an important social figure or personal relation, as is predominantly the criteria for portrait prizes nationwide.

The idea that portrait painting is a celebratory act has remained persistent since it was reserved for only the richest aristocrats, monarchs or biblical figures. In our own artistic climate, we can see these values in the application criteria for major portrait prizes where the subject has to be a notable public figure (celebrity) or a personal relation of justifiable importance.
This one-night only exhibition opens tomorrow 6pm at Goodspace in Chippendale, Sydney, please come around if you are in the area! I’m planning to bring this exhibition to Melbourne in next couple of months, and have a few solo exhibitions coming up at late this year. My current visa is expiring in end of this month and I’m waiting for a new one at the moment, hopefully it goes all smooth so I can do everything I’ve been planned and to do more in Australia. Thank you!


Winners Announced for the Bluethumb Art Prize 18, Australia’s Biggest New Art Prize

After being selected as the winner for the Works on Canvas award, Melbourne artist Kim Hyunji has won the $10,000 overall Bluethumb Art Prize 18 with her piece Painless (Luke).  Several judges from the eclectic panel of twelve passionately endorsed this piece as one of their favourite artworks of the finalists.

The piece especially touched judge and CEO of Contemporary Arts Precinct Marcus Westbury, for example, whose comment reads: “A vulnerable and compelling portrait that kept drawing me back. It captured a vulnerability and resignation that strongly evoked the uncertainty of formative years and experiences.”

Hyunji’s work was chosen as the overall winner from a limited pool of four category awards: Works on Paper, Works on Canvas, Other Media and Photography. Impressively, this year, all of the category awards were not only all taken out by women, but the winners also hail from four different states. The result reflects the diversity of the finalist selection as well as its female majority.

The winner of the Works on Paper Award is Erin Nicholls, with her stunning piece Smoke. According to co-founder and editor-in-chief of Beautiful Bizarre Magazine Danijela Krha Purssey, Nicholl’s piece is “A beautifully executed cityscape, with wonderfully realised treatment of light, shade, and muted colours. Erin has created a moment it time which both tells a story and also draws the viewer to bring their own imagination into the creation of that story.”

Illawanti Ungkutjuru Ken of Tjanpi Desert Weavers won the Other Media Award with her incredible woven basket Patupiri Wiltja, and Alice Blanch received the Photography Award, with her mysterious, moody piece A Shifting Stillness #4. Winners of each category award receive a $2,000 cash prize.

Erin Nicholls

Ilawanti Ungkutjuru Ken

Alice Blanch


Bluethumb Art Prize Exhibition

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