Lifestyle & Culture

Friends of the University Art Prize 2018: I came, I saw, I conversed

Madelaine McNeill stops by the opening of the Friends of the University Art Prize exhibition to chat to some of the artists and look at their entries, including one that’s all about dicks.

Lured in by the free food and drinks on offer, I stopped by Watt Space on Thursday night to attend the opening of this year’s Friends of the University of Newcastle Student Art Prize.

Sponsored by the Friends of the University (the kind group of folks behind the university book fair and a wide range of scholarships), the acquisitive student art prize is open to all UON students. After a round of judging, two works are selected for acquisition by the university’s art collection and the winning artists receive a sweet thousand dollars each.

After checking out all 57 entries and eating an entirely appropriate amount of cheese and salami, I spoke to the some of the artists about their creative processes and how they interpreted this year’s theme ‘temp.’ So, for your enjoyment, here are a few of my favourite works and some totally legitimate academic art criticism*.


Kate Cross_Be A Man

Be a Man#NewyDicks 2018 by Kate Cross

KATE CROSS – Be a Man#NewyDicks 2018

When Kate Cross said to me “Mine is the penises,” I knew I was in for a good time. ­­

Be a Man#NewyDicks is a projected GIF that flicks between photographs of Queen’s Wharf Tower and photographs of – yep, you guessed it – penises. Prompted by a friend to feature the tower in an artwork before its demolition, the idea for this piece came together as Kate watched her flatmates flick through Tinder.

Reminded of the often unsolicited ‘dick pics’ shared by certain users of the dating app, Kate realised dick pics and the dick tower might just make the perfect match for examining hegemonic masculinity.

Reflecting the “going up and coming down” of past and present generations, Kate has dared to use the tower’s impending demolition to exemplify social change. Our city has a deeply masculine, industrial history, but as the world changes, so too does Newcastle – One dick tower at a time.


Bodily Burden 2017 by Chloe Avery

CHLOE AVERY – Bodily Burden 2017

It was impossible to overlook Chloe Avery’s sculpture Bodily Burden. Perhaps it was my own lifelong love of horses that drew my attention to it, or maybe it’s the fact a wire-frame horse in the middle of a room stands out rather clearly. Either way, I could stare at this sculpture for hours.

More often a sketcher than a sculptor, Chloe is a Natural History Illustration student. Her sculpture is based on the term supertemporal, meaning things that are ‘beyond the boundaries of time.’

A previous work of Chloe’s, which shares the title Bodily Burden, is also part of the exhibition. The predecessor to this piece, it deals with depression, anxiety, and the ways our strength and fragility are connected. Building upon those ideas, this second form of Bodily Burden reflects the age-old question of whether there’s anything left but our bones when we depart this life.


Brother and 1 2018 by Jessica Lumley

JESSICA LUMLEY – Brothers and 1 2018

A striking homage to her brothers and the memories she shares with them, Jess Lumley’s entry caught my eye the second I entered the room.

Jess’s process saw her contemplate the ways in which memories with her brothers have shaped her identity as an Australian woman, and how they’ve shaped the things she finds important in life. The boards themselves are reminiscent of decorative plates her mother displayed on the wall of their childhood home.

As a self-confessed sucker for nostalgia, it’s no surprise that this piece was one of my favourites in the exhibition. Despite my lack of a brother, there’s still plenty for me to resonate with in a ’64 controller, skinned knees, and a beheaded snake (the image of my primary school principal beheading a brown snake with a shovel during lunchtime will be seared into my brain forever).

Childhood trauma aside, I loved this piece.


Temporary Insanity 2018 by Megan Mccarthy

MEGAN MCCARTHY – Temporary Insanity 2018 (WINNER)

One of two winning artworks to be acquired by the university, Megan McCarthy’s sculpture is grounded in a concept many students will understand.

Megan’s interpretation of ‘temp’ is written plainly in the title, Temporary Insanity. Now and again, Megan says, she feels burdened by the domestic duties that form part of her life as a student and mother.

Contrasts between feminism and femininity feature prominently in Megan’s work, and her pieces tend to garner a multitude of meanings from the audience. Comprising a lace tablecloth soaked in ciment fondu (hard, quick-setting cement), this piece – for Megan – represents suffocation under domesticity.

I’m a big fan of the lace/cement combination, and a second piece of Megan’s, made of bronze, was another favourite of mine. You’ll have to visit the exhibition yourself to see that one, though.

Chloe Hey_Unavailability

a) The State of Unavailability & b) I See Myself As You (2017) by Chloe Hey

CHLOE HEY – The State of Unavailability 2017 & I See Myself As You 2017 (WINNER)

Chloe Hey began her Fine Arts degree majoring in painting, but after picking up a camera in third year she fell in love with photography. The switch has served her well, landing her a winning spot in this year’s prize for The State of Unavailability and I See Myself As You.

As a fan of leaving art open for interpretation, ‘temp’ became ‘contemplation’ for Chloe. Her photographic process involves observing the ways people communicate with each other, and she finds her inspiration in a range of sources. Film, music, literature and people-watching drive the early stages of her process.

This particular piece – comprising two photographs – is about being present. Close Instagram, put down your phone, and take a moment to look at yourself away from the ideals and influences of other people.


At the end of the evening, I was thoroughly impressed with the entries in this year’s Student Art Prize. I may have shown up for the free food and wine, but I stayed for the fantastic art and stimulating conversation.

If you find yourself allured by Kate Cross’s dick pics, intrigued by Megan McCarthy’s cemented lace, or hooked by Chloe Avery’s wire-frame horse, the Friends of the University of Newcastle Student Art Prize will be displayed at Watt Space until June 3rd.

*I haven’t studied art since high school.

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