Congratulations to all students who were recognised as finalists for the 2020 Jenny Birt Award.

For 25 years, Jenny Birt has been encouraging and supporting young artists to pursue and build careers as professional practicing artists. One of the ways she has supported young and emerging artists is through an annual award – the Jenny Birt Award at UNSW Art & Design. 

The Jenny Birt Award was initiated in 1995 by the ‘U Committee’ and is the longest running and most prestigious award for Painting within the UNSW Art & Design academic calendar. Candidates are nominated by academic staff and then selected for inclusion in the exhibition and consideration for the $3,000 Jenny Birt Award.
This year’s exhibition took place online, displaying finalist's work on ourFacebook and Instagram channels including the announcement of the 2020 recipient. 

Online exhibition: Monday 13 – Monday 20 July 2020
Award announcement: 3PM (AEST), Monday 20 July 2020  
The 2020 finalists: 

Fiona Macpherson, Josephine Pereira, Hye Ryung Kim, Conor Parsons, Calina MacGinley Jamieson, Nicholas Lelli, Dana Hubraq, Lisa Ellen Hughes, Roxana Knittel, Alexandra Connelley, Sophie Lane, Monica Trieu, Xin Chi Kok, Dilara Niriella, Monika Cvitanovic Zaper, Jessie Nok Wai Hui, Georgina Arnott, Nyah Willis, Henrietta Richardson, Jana Ortanez.  

Congratulations to the winner of the 2020 Jenny Birt Award, Nyah Willis for their work 'Skin of Gum'. 

This work stood out because of its poetic use of materials to reflect on an important and timely subject matter. In subtle ways, it demanded multiple viewings, leading to an unfolding of associations. Using copper as the substrate means that the surface of this painting will age and evolve over a long duration, pointing to a slowing down of perception and reflection, which remain vitally important in relation to recent times. As a way to process and respond to the bushfire crisis over summer, it is a poignant work that demonstrates a thoughtful approach to materiality and process.

There are three highly commended students:

Hye Ryung Kim for their work 'Language Hybridity'

This work is commended for its experimentation and its integration of various art and non-art materials. The work engages with multiple visual languages to create a sense of layering, movement and hybridity. The openness to experimentation has led to compelling forms of visual hydrating, shifting between language and abstraction. It comes across as an exciting new direction, with much potential for future work.

Lisa Ellen Hughes for their work 'Isolation'

There is an enjoyment to engaging with this work. The relationship between animation, painting and drawing enable both humorous and serious readings of the artwork. It is a timely and thoughtful response to the current conditions of uncertainty and isolation. Even with its multiple components, it is cohesive and resourceful. The spatial arrangement and considerations for installation are impressive and show a strong attention to formal resolution.

Monika Cvitanovic Zaper for their work 'Dreamed This'

There is a fascinating relationship between experimentation and labour in this work, slipping between random wet mark making and laborious weaving. The materials and processes involved are intriguing, and the layers of highly detailed work become apparent on closer inspection. There is clearly an ambition to this work, which can be built upon in future works. The history of the materials provide interesting ways to engage with personal and cultural histories as well as the unfolding of time.

The judging panel included Lisa Sammut (artist, UNSW Art & Design alumna, and 2013 winner of the Jenny Birt Award), and Fernando do Campo (Lecturer, UNSW Art & Design).

The 2020 finalists: 

Calina MacGinley Jamieson
Bachelor of Fine Arts / Bachelor of Arts

This double-sided work is suspended, rotating with subtle changes in the surrounding environment. It considers the different and often invisible risks garment workers encounter in their lives.

Calina MacGinley Jamieson, ‘Who Made My Clothes?’ 2020. Acrylic on canvas, bra pad, pins, and reused sewing thread. 13cmx11cmx5cm. Image courtesy: the artist. Photo: Chris Chacos.

Alexandra Connelley
Bachelor of Fine Arts / Bachelor of Arts

The objective of this picture is to investigate the phenomena of energy and how it exists in an inanimate object. In this way, the painting is created with glazes and layers of paint, adding and subtracting them in correspondence with levels of intensity. 

Alexandra Connelley, ‘Untitled’ 2020. Acrylic on board. 42cmx65cmx0.5cm. Image courtesy: the artist. 

Conor Parsons
Bachelor of Fine Arts

addition by subtraction explores the beauty in recycling form and colour. The work sees elements taken from another and changed to present a new unique piece. 

Conor Parsons, ‘addition by subtraction’ 2020. Spray paint on newspaper presented on canvas. 760x610mm. Image courtesy: the artist. 

Dana Hubraq
Bachelor of Fine Arts / Bachelor of Arts

A series of paintings that summarise my own and others’ shared emotional conflicts whilst undergoing “corrective” jaw surgery.

Dana Hubraq, ‘Underbite’ 2019. Oil, acrylic and print transfer on canvas. Image courtesy: the artist.


Dilara Niriella
Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours)

Forcing a re-evaluation of our habits as consumers, Laundry Room attempts to lure the viewer in through the recognisability of imagery presented and the creation of a false sense of normalcy. Something seems a little off at first glance, take a moment and have a second look and you’ll figure out what it is. 

Dilara Niriella, ‘Laundry Room’ 2020. Oil on MDF. Image courtesy: the artist.


Fiona Macpherson
Bachelor of Fine Arts

Welcome Home is an experimental investigation of bodies in spaces, in particular their relation to interior, domestic, and personal environments.

Fiona Macpherson, ‘Welcome Home’ 2020. Oil on canvas. 50x40cm. Image courtesy: Kianna Munro.


Henrietta Richardson

Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours)

Shadow conscious consists of overlapping silhouettes painted in white acrylic on canvas alongside three shadowy figure videos playing on a loop. The work explores the binary relationship between one’s physical body and their anonymous shadow form.

Henrietta Richardson, ‘Shadow conscious’ 2020. Acrylic paint and gel medium on canvas, three looped digital videos. Canvas 30cmx40cm, individual screens 50cm x 60cm. Image courtesy: the artist. Photos and videos: 1080 pixels x 1350 pixels each.


Hye Ryung Kim
Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours)

I wanted to express cultural diversity with colour on traditional Korean paper. In my work, different cultures are expressed as "colours". My exploration of art making processes, by toying with novel possibilities such as attempting to weave Korean letters and letters from the English alphabets, or even hybrid instances of words themselves together in a marriage of the two distinctly different scripts. Combining Korean letters and letters from the English alphabets together is a form of 'hybridity'.

All cultures are "mixed" and hybrid, and there is no longer a purely obedient culture that preserves and thrives on its own. I wanted to express the moment when the boundary between obedience and hybridity breaks down.

Hye Ryung Kim, ‘Language Hybridity’ 2020. Korean traditional paper Hanji, watercolor paints, plastic cover, marker. Image courtesy: the artist.


Jana Ortanez
Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours)

The work delineates a sequence of profiles moving through muted and stark tones, suggesting plural semblances of the self.

Jana Ortanez, ‘Interrogation of Self2020. Acrylic on canvas. 32x40 inches Image courtesy: the artist. 


Jessie Nok Wai Hui
Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours)

This is a self-portrait that expresses my anxiety over other’s evaluation on my social identity. The painting depicts myself in struggle to wear a pair of jeans from the top of my body. The work is gestural, abstract yet figurative where tension and dynamic are created as a metaphor of the disconnection between the social and the inner self.

Jessie Nok Wai Hui, ‘Jeans' 2018. Oil on canvas, digital photograph. Image courtesy: the artist.


Josephine Pereira
Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours)

Voyeur prompts a contemplation of the point at which viewer becomes a voyeur. Pereira posits a recognition of a viewer’s complicity in peering into private spaces. Further, Pereira seeks to dismantle male imposed standards of representing and perceiving the female nude, investigating the visceral beauty of flesh through the intimate examinations made in Voyeur.

Josephine Pereira, ‘Voyeur' 2019. Oil on board. 8x8” each. Image courtesy: the artist.


Lisa Ellen Hughes
Bachelor of Fine Arts

Isolation reflects anthropogenic interaction through the study of marks left by man on our urban environment, the collapse of society during lockdown, and my role as a painter during COVID-19.  My installation reflects restrictions on interactions between people while negotiating isolation regulations, and the erasure of human contact.  The animation and book paintings reflect the struggle to embrace human contact, despite the lack of art material resources.

Isolation, video link for animation

Lisa Ellen Hughes, ‘Isolation’, 2020, Acrylic book paintings and collage detail. Book source: “The Disappeared” by M.R. Hall. Book painting prints on wall, size (variable), book paintings and collage size 30.5cm w x 23.5cm h. Image 2 courtesy: The artist. Acrylic paintings and photograph.

Lisa Ellen Hughes, ‘Isolation’, 2020, Acrylic book paintings and collage detail close-up. Book source: “The Disappeared” by M.R. Hall. Book paintings and collage size 30.5cm w x 23.5cm h. Image 3 courtesy: The artist. Acrylic paintings photographed.


Monica Trieu
Bachelor of Fine Arts / Bachelor of Science 

thank you! explores the erasure and smothering of the natural world, depicted as coral, through the physical action of whiting out the painted coral forms. In its place is the urban and the artificial, plastic.

Monica Trieu, ‘thank you!’ 2020. Acrylic on canvas. 34x50cm. Image courtesy: the artist.


Monika Cvitanovic Zaper
Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours)

The work engages with painting and needlework to abstract and animate parts of the artist’s matrilineal history.

Monika Cvitanovic Zaper, ‘Dreamed This’, 2020. Acrylic, oil stick and thread on a recycled pillowcase. Image courtesy: the artist.


Nicholas Lelli
Bachelor of Fine Arts / Bachelor of Education

This painting is based on a Google Earth satellite image. Truckstop is painted on a piece of MDF board, an object you may find lying around in the quiet warehouses of Sydney, the work examines themes of digital surveillance, architecture and figureless construction.

Nicholas Lelli, ‘Truckstop’ 2020. Oil on MDF board. 55x40cm. Image and photo courtesy: the artist.


Nyah Willis
Bachelor of Fine Arts / Bachelor of Arts

In the wake of the bush fire crisis I found myself caught in this hyper aware state filled with such concern for the Australian landscape and thus drawn to its many organic forms, in particular eucalyptus (gum) trees. With such rich tones and earthy textures, this triptych seeks to capture and contain the energy I observed upon their skin but as copper is an extremely reactive material the image painted upon the surface will age and change over time – ultimately it is fruitless much like our attempts and promises to change in light of this climate catastrophe.

Nyah Willis, ‘Skin of Gum’ 2020. Oil on copper. 20.1x47.1 cm. Image courtesy: the artist.


Roxana Knittel
Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours)

Like Vija Clemens, I find paintings by Morandi stop me in my tracks. Their milky light and extraordinary greys create a paradoxical world, both flat and dimensional, of indeterminate size. I am disinterested in any other artist producing works in his mode: I yawn at bottles. Yet this fiery summer, in grey smoky light, I harnessed distress into activity through his example of bedroom productivity. Morandi's simple constraints generated endless exploration. Close examination of miniature worlds restores nuance and sensitivity. He is my guide through troubled times, and toward long term investigation and (non-toxic) industry. 

Roxana Knittel, ‘Saturday’ 2020. Oil on birch. 50x45 cm. Image courtesy: the artist. 


Sophie Lane
Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours)

Taking note of the way language holds and communicates feelings, I thought you lacked emotion, and didn’t think of me at all uses diaristic language to locate the place of emotional labour exchange in everyday life.

Sophie Lane, ‘I thought you lacked emotion, and didn’t think of me at all’ 2020. Oil on board. 229x305mm. Image courtesy: the artist. 


Xin Chi (Eunice) Kok
Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering

A friend desperately bought a bag of rice in the hopes of reviving a badly water-damaged screen, proceeding to essentially submerge their computer within it. Though successful, the attempt to rejuvenate the machine using what can only be described as an incredibly precious resource during the age of COVID-19, was quite the spectacle to see, presenting itself as an almost comical portrayal of technological dependence.

Xin Chi Kok, ‘RIP! Here lies Ian’s MacBook. It has lived a difficult life, mistreated and drowned’ 2020. Acrylic paint, primed canvas. 50x35x1.5cm. Image courtesy: the artist.


Georgina Arnott
Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours)

I observe country as a nourished terrain, that feeds and is fed by life. I explore a settler-colonial connection to country; where can I find my seat in the Australian landscape?

Georgina Arnott, ‘Where can I find my seat?’ 2020. Digital mixed media. 50x50cm. Image courtesy: the artist.