Elam artists dominate awards

07 June 2018
Fetal by Niki Hill

Graduates from Elam School of Fine Arts have dominated this year’s RT Nelson Emerging Artist Awards at the NZ Art Show in Wellington.  Established in 2012 and named for philanthropist Richard Nelson, the awards recognise and encourage emerging artists and the role of New Zealand’s art schools.

Four awards are given out annually, with graduates from Elam receiving three, from almost two dozen finalists. The recipients, who all exhibited their work in the show Emergent, a project designed to bring together New Zealand’s tertiary art students, receive $2,500 each.

The awards were given to artists Bonco, Amy Donnell, and Niki Hill, from Elam School of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland, and Michael Mahne Lamb from Massey University.

Paul Nathan, aka Bonco, completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Fine Arts from Elam University of Auckland in 2017 with a focus on oil paint on canvas. His work revolves around using the idea of a game to explore concepts about the authenticity of experience and identity. He suggests that in Western civilization human society replicates a deeply entrenched consumerist value system while at the same time being deluded about one’s own significance both personally and as a species in relation to the cosmos. His paintings have been created in the manner of a quasi-scientific experiment to probe Donald Winnicott’s theories of the “True Self” and “False Self.” Using the geometric grid as a proxy, he has embedded four letter words with his own code, words that have negative connotations that speak of human frailty. By doing this, he is attempting to transform the viewer’s experience of the work, once the titles of the paintings (the embedded words) are revealed. The aim is to create the conditions necessary to destabilise the viewer, asking them to question their own relationship to these concepts and to the work itself.

Amy Donnell is a recent graduate of Elam, a Registered Nurse and a new mother of one. She has an interest in the concept of re-enchantment and perceptual shifts as well as the steel construction process. Her series “Sky Crystals” features geometric steel structures suspended from the ceiling, creating three-dimensional line drawings that define the space and project shadows. The multiple ‘crystals’ make up one mass, and they reference the way clouds are made up of multiple water crystals reflecting light. Amy’s process with steel refers to a sense of growing and expanding bond by bond; joining steel rods together as a form of three-dimensional mark making, each new piece responding under her direction to the previous piece. Amy says she is fascinated by forms found in nature and bringing a sense of the wonder that she see especially now being a new mother.

Niki Hill has a Bachelor of Fine Arts, BFA (Hons) degree and a Masters of Fine Arts degree from Elam. Her suite of photographic portraits and abstract landscapes represent the awkward on-going struggle against ableism; the societal barriers that manifests in the lives of people with disabilities and their families. Photographs of landscape details are projected over a body shrouded in a stretch fabric, set against a black background. The resulting images conjure alienated beings and dark atmospheres. These portraits and abstract landscapes visualise the otherworldliness and chaotic nature of life in the metaphorical disability landscape.


Miranda Playfair | Media Advisor
Communications Office
Tel: 09 923 5029  Mob: 021 063 8393  Email: m.playfair@auckland.ac.nz