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2017 Sidney Myer Fund Australian Ceramic Award

Shepparton Art Museum (SAM) is excited to announce the winner of the biennial Sidney Myer Fund Australian Ceramic Art Award (SMFACA), the premier national Award for artists working in the ceramic medium.

This year’s exhibition supports the rich, vibrant and diverse use of the ceramic medium, and includes the work by five contemporary artists Glenn Barkley, Karen Black, Laith McGregor, Jenny Orchard and Yasmin Smith. Works are on display at SAM from 17 June to 13 August.

 The prestigious $50,000 prize has been awarded to Jenny Orchard for her work The Imagined Possibility of Unity (2017).

Judges of the 2017 Sidney Myer Fund Australian Ceramic Art Award are 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.

 Judges’ comments:

“Jenny Orchard’s installation is a tour de force that reveals an artist in full command of her medium, and an artist whose work has an unquestionable contemporary relevance.

Orchard has been at the forefront of ceramics as a contemporary medium for more than 40 years.  In an outstanding field of five leading contemporary artists working in clay, Orchard’s work is utterly compelling. 

Her figures are invested with an exceptional life force that emanates directly from the organic medium of clay. The Judges were dazzled by Orchard’s range of expert modelling and glazing techniques.  While Orchard’s work has clearly acknowledged references to art and design histories, including the Italian art and design The Memphis Group (1981-87), the judges feel strongly that Orchard’s work transcends all influences and powerfully communicates a singular vision.” 

Inaugurated in 1991 as the Sidney Myer Fund Australia Day Ceramic Award, the award has evolved into what is now known as the Sidney Myer Fund Australian Ceramic Award. The Sidney Myer Fund have tenaciously supported the development of a now nationally-renowned ceramic collection at the Shepparton Art Museum, as well as artists through their support in this award, which has previously awarded now-distinguished artists Stephen Benwell, Deborah Halpern and Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran.

Jenny Orchard commented on being shortlisted for the 2017 Sidney Myer Fund Australian Ceramic Award in February:

“Being part of the 2017 Sidney Myer Fund Australian Ceramic Award is very exciting for me. This show makes it possible for me to bring together aspects of my practice which have been quite scattered over the last decades. I moved my studio home in 2015 and built a “shed” with transparent walls and roof to see the sky, trees and birds in 2016.

I believe optimism is the only way of being in the world. 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.”

IMAGE: Jenny Orchard, The Imagined Possibility of Unity (detail), 2017. Photo by Christian Capurro. Image courtesy the artist and Despard Gallery, Hobart.

Media: SAM Marketing Coordinators – p (+61 3) 5832 9494
Amina Barolli – 
Sarah Werkmeister –

Shepparton Art Museum to announce $50K ceramic award

Shepparton Art Museum (SAM) presents the sixth iteration of its Sidney Myer Fund Australian Ceramic Award (SMFACA) from 17 June to 13 August 2017. The five shortlisted artists for this year’s $50,000 acquisitive award are: Glenn Barkley, Karen Black, Laith McGregor, Jenny Orchard and Yasmin Smith. The winner of the award will be announced at the opening of the exhibition on Saturday 17 June.

 The SMFACA has offered Australian audiences the opportunity to view the best contemporary ceramic art for over 12 years. With ceramics increasingly utilised by a number of emerging and established contemporary artists, the possibilities for the medium have expanded significantly. So too have the ideas and themes examined by the artists through this medium. The Sidney Myer Fund have supported this award for over 25 years.

Chairman of the Sidney Myer Fund, Carrillo Gantner AO said: “The Sidney Myer Fund has supported the Shepparton Art Museum ceramic award since 1991. This prize, the only one of its kind in the country, continues to attract Australian artists of the highest order and we are delighted that our support has assisted Shepparton to build one of the very finest collections of ceramics in the country. We look forward to the collection being shared more prominently with the community and with visitors in the planned new SAM.”

Shortlisted in early February this year, each of the five artists have spent the past four months developing substantial new bodies of work to present as part of the award’s exhibition.

Glenn Barkley’s ceramic installation explores everyday life, botanical forms and literary reference points while drawing from the histories of the ceramic form and its traditions of museum display.

Karen Black’s painterly surfaces explore themes of war and female experience, her sculptural forms inspired by 3rd and 4th Century Turkish perfume bottles.

Laith McGregor, well known for his esoteric drawings, creates a sculptural installation that explores the intersection of dreams and reality, inspired by nostalgia and the subconscious.

Jenny Orchard expands on her investigations into the natural world, mythology and invented narratives around gene technology, producing fantastical, totemic ceramic forms.

Yasmin Smith assembles a structure using ceramic branches directly cast from River Red Gums and orchard trees around Shepparton, investigating social histories around agriculture, migration and displacement.

The award is being judged by 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.

Dr Rebecca Coates said: “Ceramics is the medium of our times. SAM is hugely excited to present new work by five outstanding contemporary Australian artists who continue to excite and inspire us in the way they engage and extend our understanding of the ceramic medium. These artists have a mastery of materials, which allows us to reflect on the themes and passions that underpin their work. Inspiration comes from the past and present: from archaeology and anthropology to arboretums and apple orchards – these are just some of the ideas that will make us think of ceramics in completely new ways.”

Curator: Anna Briers

Curatorial associate: Belinda Briggs

Exhibition Dates: Saturday 17 June – Sunday 13 August 2017

Official Opening: Saturday 17 June, 4 to 6pm

Programs and events, including an artist talk prior to the official opening:

For further information, print quality images, or to arrange interviews with SAM’s director Rebecca Coates or artists included, please contact SAM Marketing Co-coordinators on phone (03) 5832 9494 or by emailing or

High resolution images and artist biographies here -