TASMANIAN artist Nik Lee has won the $10,000 Macquarie Digital Portraiture Award for his work “our only concern is the void 2013”, it was announced today at The National Portrait Gallery by the Macquarie Group Foundation’s Lisa George.The National Portrait Gallery and its sponsoring body, Macquarie Group Foundation, joined to congratulate Lee, whose portrait had struck the judges—National Portrait Gallery senior curator Christopher Chapman, director, Media Art Asia Pacific Kim Machan and the gallery’s online manager, Gillian Raymond—for its “gentleness”.
Lee, a Launceston Church Grammar School Year 12 student, told “CityNews” he was “still in shock” at the news of his $10,000 win, which will also include a professional development program in Brisbane at the State Library of Queensland’s The Edge and a professional mentorship on media art from Media Arts Asia Pacific.
Lee explained that after being alerted to the works of French existentialist philosopher Jean Paul Sartre, he used the work “Nausea” as the basis of a digital film focusing on “emotional transition”, asking his 18 year old friend Henry Strong to try to “perform” extracts the novel with feeling as he filmed him.
So what attracted Lee to Sartre?
“I’m a teenager and I know about depression,” he said, “and it’s existence is a strange concept.” When he read words like “it would be much better if I could only stop thinking…I exist because I think,” he was surprised at how similar some of Sartre’s ideas were to his own.
Now in its second year, the idea of the Macquarie Digital Portraiture Award is to extend traditional notions of portraiture into the digital realm, part of the gallery’s commitment to engaging with screen-based stories and digital technology.
The other finalists, whose works, in addition to that of the winner, make up the Macquarie Digital Portraiture Award exhibition, are Frazer Bull-Clark for “Leaving Lost” 2013 (NSW, b.1990 Brett Walker for “Untitled” 2013 (Vic, b.1988);); Nara Peek-Silva for “Untag me!” 2013 (NSW, b.1989); Stella Rosa McDonald for “Self, Titled,” 2013 (NSW, b.1984) and Phuong Thai Hoang Ngo for “My Dad the people smuggler” 2013 (Vic, b.1983).
Bull-Clark, who now lives in Sydney, is the former Narrabundah College student who starred in the short film “The Milkman” before leaving to study screen culture at the college of Fine Arts. His film “Leaving Lost” uses Canberra artist Derek O’Connor to create a paean to Fyshwick.A panel discussion, “What is digital portraiture?” will be held at the NPG’s Liangis Theatre from 2.30 to 4pm today, with panellists Christopher Chapman, Gillian Raymond, digital artist Dr Wade Marynowsky and award finalists debating the representation of identity in digital environments.
The Macquarie Digital Portraiture Award exhibition, at the National Portrait Gallery, 10am – 5pm daily until November 13.