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Shannon Te Ao wins Walters Prize 2016
Shannon Te Ao, Okea ururoatia (never say die), 2016, collection of plants, display furniture, ultra violet lights. Courtesy of the artist and Robert Heald Gallery, Wellington, (installation view) Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki.

AUCKLAND.- Shannon Te Ao has been announced tonight as the winner of the Walters Prize 2016, New Zealand’s most prestigious contemporary art award.

The announcement was made by Doryun Chong, the Walters Prize 2016 international judge, at a dinner at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. Te Ao wins $50,000 for the honour.

Te Ao was selected for his presentation of Two shoots that stretch far out 2013–14, a single-channel, HD video work and Okea ururoatia (never say die) 2016, living plants, furniture and lights.

Chong, Deputy Director of Hong Kong’s M+ museum, says he was intrigued, touched, and moved by Te Ao’s art.

‘As I left the space of his art, I felt as if I had not only been teleported but also had been transformed. I imagined him citing those lines [of an historic Māori song] to the end of time, with the rabbits, ducks and chickens, wallaby, swan and donkey by his side, while the plants wither and die, and come back to life again, and then again.’

‘I would like to thank Shannon for helping me remember that a powerful work of art is sometimes created by an elegant formula of a simple gesture and repetitions. It is my distinct pleasure and privilege to announce that the winner of the Walters Prize 2016 is Shannon Te Ao,’ says Chong.

Chong made his selection from works presented by artists Joyce Campbell (b.1971), Nathan Pohio (b.1970), Lisa Reihana (b.1964) and Shannon Te Ao (b.1978).

Chong says the artworks being shown for the Walters Prize 2016 gave him the impression that he was traveling to unfamiliar places.

‘The pleasure of finding yourself in an unfamiliar place comes from encountering images and ideas that override the framework for understanding the world. This occurs when perceptions are challenged, even if the traveller believes he has seen and experienced much,’ he says.

Chong is the latest of a prestigious line of key international figures who have judged the Walters Prize historically and created connections and engaged with the contemporary art community in New Zealand. These judges include Charles Esche (2014), Mami Kataoka (2012), Vicente Todolí (2010), Catherine David (2008), Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev (2006), Robert Storr (2004) and Harald Szeemann (2002).

Auckland Art Gallery Director Rhana Devenport says, ‘something mysterious and wholly unexpected has occurred in the coalescence of works in the Walters Prize 2016’.

‘The vital force of camera- and time-based art in this country is unmissable in this year’s Walters Prize as the works trace across primordial time, imagined spaces and generational memory, to become meditations on mortality and life, while asking unanswerable questions about love, yearning, empathy and time,’ she says.

Te Ao joins a celebrated list of former Walters Prize winners: contemporary New Zealand artists Luke Willis Thompson (2014), Kate Newby (2012), Dan Arps (2010), Peter Robinson (2008), Francis Upritchard (2006), et al. (2004) and Yvonne Todd (2002).

The Walters Prize is awarded for an outstanding work of contemporary New Zealand art produced and exhibited in the past two years, and 2016 marks the eighth iteration of the biennial award at Auckland Art Gallery.

The Prize was initiated to help create a greater understanding of contemporary art in New Zealand and to make contemporary art a more widely recognised, debated and prominent feature of the country’s cultural life.

Te Ao was born 1978, Sydney (Ngāti Tūwharetoa). Lives and works in Wellington, New Zealand.

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