The 2017 $50,000 Sidney Myer Fund Australian Ceramic Art Award, the most prestigious prize in this medium in the nation, has been awarded to UNSW Art & Design graduate, Jenny Orchard. 

The Award judging panel selected five of the country’s most celebrated and dedicated contemporary ceramics practitioners from a field of applications submitted from around Australia.   They include Glenn Barkley, Karen Black, Laith McGregor, Jenny Orchard, and Yasmin Smith.

Exhibited at the Shepparton Art Museum, works from the five finalists represent the expressive possibilities of one of the oldest modes of creative expression known to man.

Orchard’s winning work, The Imagined Possibility of Unity (2017), is a wild and arresting compilation of large sculptural pieces - bulbous, colourful, and breathtakingly unpredictable.   

Judges, including Jacqueline Doughty, Curatorial Manager, The Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne; Jason Smith, Director, Geelong Art Gallery; and Dr Rebecca Coates, Director, Shepparton Art Museum, were united in their description of Orchard’s work: as a “tour de force that reveals an artist ... whose work has an unquestionable contemporary relevance’’.

Orchard, who has spent more than 30 years working as an artist investigating issues around genetic modifications and industrial farming, calls her pieces “zookinis” or “interbeings”; surreal hybrids of plants and animals.

Orchard was honoured and humbled to have been named the winner of this premier acquisitive ceramics art prize. 

“I believe optimism is the only way of being in the world,” she said. “Quantum mechanics and bio-technology are an everyday reality never discussed, and yet our future on the planet depends on our engagement with them, so my work is an attempt to provoke questioning. I choose not to use shock, but to try to express wonder, and a gentle probing or provocation to look at the diversity and connections in the lively world around us.”

Jenny Orchard's success follows on UNSW Art & Design lecturer Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran's recognition with the Award in 2015. 

The Sidney Myer Fund Australian Ceramic Art Award is on at the Shepparton Art Museum from 17 June - 13 August.