Visual artist wins world view

Photo of Salote Tawale in her studio.

Photo of Salote Tawale in her studio.

Salote Tawale was awarded the inaugural Arts NSW 2017 Visual Artist Fellowship this month for later-career artists.

The Fijian-born artist from Newtown was presented the multi-faceted Fellowship by Arts NSW Executive Director Michael Brealey at the opening of an exhibition of work by the six shortlisted artists at Artbank, Sydney. It runs until 24 February 2016.

The new Visual Artists Fellowship supports the professional development of a mid-career to established NSW artist and includes $30,000, an acquisitive Artbank commission up to $20,000 and a residency at a NSW regional gallery.

Salote Tawale’s widely exhibited work draws on her personal experience of race, class, ethnicity and gender while growing up in suburban Australia.

“To even get to be a mid-career artist means that you’ve worked hard,” says Salote.  “I’ve survived so far because I’m a member of such great arts communities and it’s these small arts organisations which have supported my practice.”

She will use the Fellowship to explore family oral histories and the Women’s Tattoo in Fiji, study under a curatorial mentorship in Europe, exhibit her art in London, make a new work during a residency at the Murray Art Museum Albury and develop a work for Artbank.

“I’ve never been to Europe before, so it’s an awesome opportunity,” says Salote. “Much of my work is about the complexity of having a European Australian and Indigenous Fijian heritage and being located in Australia. Hopefully people find this interesting because most of us have immigrant histories.”

“It’s important to respond to the communities that you live in – and not just the smaller ones, but to be part of a national community and bigger dialogue.  Identity is not just a concept for Australians.”

As well as her mentorship in Europe with documenta 14 curatorial advisor Candice Hopkins, and her participating in a London exhibition, Salote is looking forward to her oral history research in Fiji.

“I’m really interested in talking about pre-colonial Fiji and belief systems and how villages and families operated, about those old stories.”

The artists shortlisted for the 2017 NSW Visual Artists Fellowship were Khadim Ali, Linda Dement, Karla Dickens, Bianca Hester, Salote Tawale and Hiromi Tango.

“It is a shortlist of exceptionally talented artists,” said Michael Brealey, “diverse in backgrounds, working across such an exciting range of mediums, and with two of them recently awarded Sidney Myer Creative Fellowships.”

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