For the first time, we offered a prize as part of the New Art Exchange Open. This was called the National Artist Prize and the criteria was that the Artist must be aged 60 or above. We wanted to work alongside NAE to specifically raise the profile of our older artists, their work and how life has influenced their work and practice.
We had a small number of artworks to choose from, it was a difficult decision and in depth discussions were held around the work before selecting our winner. The winner was announced at the NAE open award ceremony on Friday 12 August and we are pleased to reveal the chosen work was 'Counted' by Suman Gujral.
When we were selecting the work we wanted to see something that stood out, made a statement, that would challenge us, teach us about ourselves and the world we live in. Give us something that would stay with us and give us something to talk about and reflect on - something we could hold up and say you need to see this.
Art has the ability to make us look at the world in a different way and some art has the power to leave an impression in our psyche that can stay with us forever even after just seeing it once.
We chose this piece of work as it did just that. It’s concept is so well considered giving us so much to think about in a very neutral and natural perspective. It leaves little trace and small clues of what underlies the poignancy of subject matter, which in itself holds the overall meaning the artist is trying to demonstrate. The simplistic format speaks volumes and we feel this was done with so much meaning in every single detail of the application.
About the work:
My artwork seeks to acknowledge the uncounted number of migrants who have perished trying to reach sanctuary. Each perforation records an absence. It is made with a book tool as I want to tell their story. Gold stiches symbolise 100, and red 1000 deaths. The Khadi paper reflects my Indian heritage where, as a descendant of immigrants displaced by the 1947 Partition of India, my connection with the horrors of forcible displacement starts. The paper is white because that is the colour of mourning in India.
The work looks like a ravaged landscape with small tears in as well as holes. Counted is a meditation on loss and the continual cycle of politics, power, war and climate change which leads to forced displacement.
“I'm thrilled to have won the prize- especially as the work is so dear to my heart.”
About the Artist:
Suman is a fine Artist living in St Albans, she completed an MA in Fine Art at the University of Hertfordshire in 2018. Specialising in printmaking, she started the MA with an interest in excavating her experience of cancer and reconnecting with her Indian heritage. This led to conversations with her mother about her experience of Partition and its impact on their family, leading to an awareness of how life leaves its traces upon us - emotional and physical.
Her research into the history of printmaking in India, revealed to Suman the impact of the 1947 Partition of India on all aspects of life on the sub-continent and on her own family's history which inspired a deeper interest in the effect of local and global traumas on individuals and communities. This led to her current work on the migrant crisis and its roots.
"These issues can be painful to think about but I believe that artists are in a unique position to act as agents for change by provoking conversations through our work. I make abstract work, stemming from my own response but which can be interpreted by the viewer from their own perspective."
"It's my belief that we all have the power to change things. Small steps, like drops of rain, can create great waves which change everything"
Suman Gujral 2018
You can discover more of Suman's work by visiting her website here
About the Open:
Established in Nottingham the NAE Open is an open platform exhibition for artists to apply to exhibit their work. A key aim of the project is to create a platform which supports the development of artists and raises their profile.
Over 300 submissions were received and over 40 artworks were selected by a panel of judges. The selection panel comprised of respected peer artists, curators and producers.
The exhibition boasted an eclectic mix of work that covered various mediums including painting, drawing, video, live art, photography, textiles and sculpture. The criteria Artists worked to, was that it must address important societal concerns. Among the works chosen, critical issues being explored were, racism, identity, politics, misogyny, the immigration crisis, environmental concerns and the impact of the global pandemic.
You can read more about the NAE Open and other awarded Artists here