Winning piece invokes family connections

John Shaw Neilson Art Prize winner Isabella MacKirdy.

Elisabeth Champion

A childhood on sheep farms and a family connection were the inspiration behind the winning entry in the John Shaw Neilson Art Prize.

First-time entrant Isabella MacKirdy, of Hamilton, was named as the winner of the prestigious prize at the opening of the Penola Coonawarra Arts Festival on Thursday.

Depicting a pair of shears with some wool and Australian native Blue Dampiera, Ms MacKirdy used a personal touch to create her image.

“I grew up on a sheep farm, so when I read the poem, it just really stood out to me – the shearing and the scent of the wool,” she said.

“Having come from that myself growing up on a sheep farm and having shearing in spring, that immediately flashed into my mind.

“They’re actually my grandfather’s old shears and then we got something from the farm as well.

“Then I just did a bit of research about the flowers and what would be around, and I picked a native.”

Assistant Director of Operations for the Art Gallery of South Australia Emma Fey, who was the judge this year, described the piece as a highly detailed stylized composition that evokes the harshness and the contemplative piece of rural life.”

“It is painted in acrylic and is a delicately rendered painting and it celebrates the modesty and beauty of the Australian native Blue Dampiera, a flower that typically blooms from late winter into spring.

“The balance of the painting is particularly what drew me to it.

“The balance is created by the weightiness of the sharp, rusted blades, akin to Nielsen’s line in his poem titled to a blue flower, and the line in the poem is the root heavy scent of wool, and this really celebrates the honesty, the courage and the beauty of day to day life in this country.

“I thought it was a beautiful painting, exceptionally rendered.”

Winning the local art prize was Dagny Strand, with her painting You and Yellow Air , inspired by the poem You and Yellow Air.

The Highly Commended Prize went to Natania Hollingsworth for her piece The Soldier is Home inspired by the poem The Soldier is Home.

Ms Hollingsworth also won the Design prize.