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Body of work: $20,000 win will help Brisbane artist to 'embrace experimentation'


The Sheila Foundation has awarded the 2021 Michela and Adrian Fini Artist Fellowship to Brisbane-based artist Natalya Hughes.

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The $20,000 fellowship will support Hughes to create a body of new work for her forthcoming solo exhibition The Interior, at the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane 30 July–1 October 2022.

Natalya Hughes is one of Australia’s most exciting mid-career artists. Her practice is concerned with decorative and ornamental traditions and their associations with the feminine, the body, and excess.

Recent bodies of work investigate the relationship between Modernist painters and their anonymous women subjects.

Her exhibition at the IMA will be an immersive full-gallery installation that draws on mid-century aesthetics and psychoanalytic theory to create an alternative space for the “talking cure”.

Utilising the trope of Freud’s couch and the way it echoes into the contemporary quasi-domestic setting of the therapist’s office, Hughes will recreate her own interpretation of the treatment-space using sculptural and décor elements whose scale has been manipulated and made strange.

The Michela and Adrian Fini Artist Fellowship is unique in Australia because it supports the development of new work by contemporary female artists, at a critical juncture of their career, typically mid-career.

It also assists in the presentation and documentation of the work at contemporary art spaces within the national Contemporary Art Organisations Australia (CAOA) network.

The Fellowship was established with donations from Sheila Foundation board member Michaela Fini and her husband Adrian and is awarded annually over three years.

Installation views, Know My Name: Australian Women Artists 1900 to Now (2021-22), National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Courtesy of the artist and NGA. (Image: Supplied)

“I’m so grateful to receive the 2022 Michela and Adrian Fini Fellowship. It will me allow me to work in ways that are both more ambitious and more embracing of the risks and challenges that experimentation pose,” said Natalya Hughes.

“It’s so important to have that push to go further as an artist, and especially as female artist at this stage in my career.”

The IMA is the second CAOA partner to host the fellowship.

“Natalya Hughes is an exceptional artist and her immersive exhibition The Interior will form a highlight of the IMA’s 2022 Artistic Program,” said IMA Director Liz Nowell.

“The generous support of the Fini Fellowship will allow her to experiment with new mediums and think about her work on a large and ambitious scale.”

Sheila is a national philanthropic foundation for women in visual art with a mission to overturn decades of gender bias by writing Australian women artists back into our art history and ensuring equality for today’s women artists.

By supporting a solo exhibition at a highly-regarded Australian contemporary art space, this Fellowship enables leading women artists to connect with new audiences and develop career-defining works.

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