Kate Stevens wins inaugural Evelyn Chapman Art Award

Artist Kate Stevens has won the inaugural $50,000 prize and follows in Evelyn Chapman’s footsteps painting war torn cities and embracing opportunities not afforded to her predecessor.

Trustee, Perpetual, and the S.H. Ervin Gallery have announced artist Kate Stevens as the winner of the inaugural Evelyn Chapman Art Award, 130 years after Evelyn Chapman’s birth.

Stevens’ winning work Gaza forms part of an ongoing series exploring how we process images of war from the domesticity of the home which the artist looks to develop using the scholarship.

The Evelyn Chapman Art Award is a new award established in the memory of Evelyn Chapman (1888 – 1961), an Australian painter and the first female artist to depict the devastated battle fields, churches and towns of the western front after the First World War. A respected artist, Chapman exhibited at the Salon in France but was forced to retire as a painter following her marriage; however she continued to espouse art education and practice. Evelyn Chapman’s archive including artworks, photographs and correspondence between her and her daughter is held at the Art Gallery of NSW National Art Archive. The award provides a $50,000 scholarship for an Australian painter, male or female under the age of 45, to ‘engender the encouragement, development and rewarding of artistic skill, through furthering the training and knowledge and skills of Australian painters.’

Award winner Kate Stevens said, “I felt inspired to enter this prize upon seeing the beautiful black and white photograph of Evelyn Chapman sitting at her easel painting the ruins of the Western Front – a pioneer for women interested in the subject of war, not afforded the opportunity we have today to combine painting and motherhood. It is a great privilege to receive this award and I look forward to using this opportunity to immerse myself in learning about Australia and war today, and the works of Australian war artists, so that I can bring a deeper understanding to a new series of paintings on the subject.”

Stevens spent the past 18 months painting images of the ruins of Aleppo from drone footage on YouTube, and a series of explosions in Gaza painted from news photos on her mobile phone. As the winner of the award, she aims to develop this series of work with research at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra and further her understanding of recent experiences of Australians at war and the history of the nation’s war artists.

Caitriona Fay, General Manager, Community and Social Investment at Perpetual said, the Evelyn Chapman Art award celebrates promising painters across the country.

“Evelyn Chapman’s legacy has inspired this year’s winner, Kate Stevens, to continue the tradition of Australian women artists capturing war. The quality of the 2018 works proved outstanding and are a testament to the artists we have in Australia. As Trustee, we are proud to support the S.H Ervin Gallery in offering this award on what would have been Evelyn’s 130th birthday, and congratulate Ms Stevens on her win.”

S.H. Ervin Gallery Director Jane Watters said the new award celebrates the history and future of Australian painting.

“It offers contemporary painters working in oil and tempera a wonderful opportunity and unrivalled freedom to develop their artistic practice and education. The award is important because it encourages the development of traditional techniques while helping to create a platform for contemporary artists to forge new paths and further the development of the medium in the future. The quality of the 2018 finalist works is testament to the vitality and experimentation present in the tradition today,” she said.

Stevens was selected from a finalist group of seven artists, who each submitted three oil paintings and a proposal, judged by a panel consisting of artist Ann Cape, artist Yvonne Langshaw, and artist and Head of Royal Art Society of NSW Art School Greg Hansell.

The winning work will be on exhibit at the S.H Ervin Gallery until Sunday, 2 December.