churchie emerging art prize: 2023 finalists

Brisbane’s Institute of Modern Art (IMA) and the churchie emerging art prize announce the thirteen finalists in the churchie emerging art prize 2023.

Established at Anglican Church Grammar School in 1987, the churchie is renowned for showcasing the next wave of early-career artists. Today, it is one of Australia’s leading awards for emerging artists.

The exhibition—at the IMA from 20 May to 19 August 2023—will feature works by

thirteen finalists from across Australia selected by Sebastian Henry-Jones, curator at West Space, Melbourne. Their works span painting, sculpture, video, drawing, printmaking, and photography.


This year’s finalists are:

Alrey Batol (VIC), Amanda Bennetts (QLD), Dylan Bolger (QLD), Luke Brennan (NSW), Matthew Brown (WA),

Raf McDonald (VIC), Corben Mudjandi (NT), Melody Paloma (VIC), Roberta Joy Rich (VIC), Joel Spring (NSW), Jess Tan (WA),

Debbie Taylor-Worley (NSW), and Ash Tower (SA).


“The exhibition is organised around the theme of context”, Henry-Jones explains, “recognising that artists’ practices are linked to particularities of time and place—to the cultural, social, economic, and historic conditions that shape their lives on this continent.”

“I’m very excited to be working with this group of talented artists—many of whom I’ve been a fan of for some time. the churchie is a rare opportunity to be in conversation with one’s peers, surveying the diverse work being made by early-career artists across the continent today.”

Brisbane’s Amanda Bennetts draws on her experience of living with a progressive neurological disease to explore issues relating to disability. Her installations highlight

the coldness of metal handrails, the sterility of medical devices, and the labour of self-care for those with disabilities in a wellness-obsessed society.

Corben Mudjandi is based in Jabiru township in the Northern Territory. His nostalgic analogue photographs explore being on Country—capturing scenes of family, nature, and hunting. As Mirrar traditional owners, he and his family lead the resistance to uranium mining on Mirrar Country in Kakadu National Park.

Melbourne’s Roberta Joy Rich’s video and installation works explore resilience and power, referring to history, popular culture, and her diaspora southern African Cape identity. She reconstructs history with empowering narratives, presented in sardonic museum-like displays.

Wiradjuri artist Joel Spring’s work examines the contested narratives of Australia’s urban cultural and Indigenous histories. As an ‘anti-disciplinary’ artist, he works on collaborative projects outside typical definitions of contemporary art. His work was recently shown

in Ceremony, the 2022 National Indigenous Art Triennial at the National Gallery of Australia.

From Perth, Jess Tan’s sculptures morph out of what she eaten, found, and previously made. Manipulating tree branches from her family’s garden and pieces of office chairs, Tan transforms her materials to create new and unusual emotional responses to them.

Adelaide’s Ash Tower explores Australia’s history of nuclear-weapons testing. He draws parallels between atomic technology and funerary practices by using materials that can be found in both fields—lead, vinyl, and glass.

the churchie offers a $15,000 non-acquisitive major prize, sponsored by BSPN Architecture; a $5,000 special commendation prize, sponsored by Fardoulys Constructions; and two

$1,000 commendation prizes, sponsored by Madison Cleaning Services.

The winners will be chosen and announced on Friday 2 June by guest judge Tara McDowell. McDowell is Associate Professor and Director of Curatorial Practice at Monash University, Melbourne.

Gallery visitors are invited to cast their vote in the $3,000 People’s Choice Award, sponsored by Madison Cleaning Services, to be awarded at the conclusion of the exhibition. One lucky voter will win a two-night stay courtesy of Spicers Retreats.

Previous winners of the churchie include Emmaline Zanelli (2022), Nina Sanadze (2021), Emily Parsons-Lord (2020), and Nadia Hernández (2019).

the churchie emerging art prize 2023 is on view at the IMA from 20 May–19 August 2023. The IMA is open Tuesday–Saturday, 10am–5pm. Entry is always free.


Image: Amanda Bennetts, The Spectacle of the Antagonist, 2022, Multi-channel video installation,Metro Arts, Brisbane. Photo: Louis Lim