ANU PhD candidate inaugural winner of French-Australian art prize

Image: Shanti Shea An.

A PhD candidate in the ANU School of Art & Design has been named Grand Champion of a newly established art prize, earning a flight to Paris amongst other winnings.

The inaugural Eloquence Art Prize awarded the best 15 minute talks by Honours, Masters, and PhD art history students about French artist Henri Matisse’s influence on Australian artists. Finalists hailed from the Australian National University, Monash University, University of Sydney and the National Art School.

In her talk, Grand Champion Shanti Shea An examined the extent of Matisse’s influence on the work of Australian painter Hilda Rix Nicholas. Additionally, she cites in her prize motivation letter Matisse’s impact on her own PhD research: “His 1908 Notes of a Painter is a text I often return to, particularly passages where he details the difficulty in translating his experience of painting and its unique expressive qualities into language.” 

“This tension also informs part of my doctoral research, where I am currently investigating the intersection between painting and textuality, particularly ideas around reading practices, ekphrasis, and intertextuality.”

As Grand Champion and the University Champion from the ANU, Shanti’s total prize winnings include a flight to Paris and $1500 cash; both donated by the French Embassy in Australia. Additionally, she will receive art history classes with Ecole du Lourve in Paris, French lessons with Alliance Francaise, and mentoring sessions with the Grand Final jury and University judging panel.

The winners were announced at a live event at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (NSW). Speaking on behalf of the grand final judges, Maud Page, Art Gallery of NSW Deputy Director and Director of Collections, praised Shanti’s talk for the clarity and simplicity of her argument, and the poeticness of her delivery.

In her speech, Shanti thanked everyone who made the prize possible, and said to the audience: “It's been a pleasure to look at this material and to spend some time with these paintings and to spend some time with you as well.”

Head of the ANU School of Art & Design, Dr Beck Davis, acknowledged both Shanti's achievement as well as the contributions of the prize organisers.

"This is a tremendous outcome and the School of Art & Design is incredibly proud of Shanti and what she has achieved," Dr Davis said. "Shanti has an track record of excellence and has illlustrated this with her insightful, informative and emotive presentation against some of Australia's best emerging talent."

"The School is thankful to Culture Plus and the French Embassy in Australia for their effort and foresight in establishing this unique prize and we congratulate Shanti on being the inagural Eloquence Art Prize Grand Champion!"

The Eloquence Art Prize is an initiative by Culture Plus, which works to create and strengthen cultural relations between France and Australia, in partnership with the Embassy of France in Australia. It coincides with the Art Gallery of NSW exhibition Matisse: Life & Spirit, Masterpieces from the Centre Pompidou, Paris, running until 13 March 2022.

Further reading: Here’s our profile of Shanti Shea An from when she was graduating with a Master of Art History and Curatorial Studies from the ANU School of Art & Design.

Written by Evana Ho