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The winner of New Zealand’s premier award for drawing this year was made not with pencil, charcoal, ink, or any other traditional drawing tool, but with carpet — large, cut-up scraps of it, piled on the floor and draped over a string. Wellington artist Kirsty Lillico’s “State Block” earned her the top spot in the annual Parkin Drawing Prize as well as NZD20,000, beating over 500 entries submitted by other New Zealanders, almost all of whom produced more conventional works on paper.
“It’s based on a modernist apartment block in Auckland on Symonds St., and it explores the legacy of modernist architecture,” Lillico told Newshub. “I guess I sort of think about how we occupy space in buildings, and that’s the kind of space we occupy, and these are the walls and everything else.”
Launched by Chris Parkin, an art collector and owner of Wellington’s Museum Art Hotel, the Parkin Drawing Prize “promotes drawing in all its forms — as discovery, a testing of ideas, and decision-making.” Submissions this year ranged from a realist sketch of a flying squirrel by Margaret Silverwood to an installation of drawings wrapped in tissue and placed on the lid of an archive box by Wendy Bornholdt. In the award’s four-year history, Lillico’s assemblage is arguably the winning work that’s least like a drawing: previous recipients include an India ink and charcoal drawing by Hannah Beehre; a graphite floor piece by Gabrielle Amodeo; and a charcoal image of astronomer Edwin Hubble that turned out to be a copy of a famous photo by Margaret Bourke-White.
Yes, I know, Magritte’s pipe, Duchamp’s toilet, etc. But in the context of a national contest that’s based on a specific category, should one, ahem, draw the line somewhere? If I take a photograph, could I say I drew with light or even emulsion and submit it? Isn’t there a difference between an artwork that can be construed, as an afterthought, as a drawing and a piece that seriously examines what a drawing is or can be?
This year’s prize shortlisted 84 artworks, including sculptures, installations, and digital works, but each of those features some clear association with or meditation on the line. Karyn Taylor’s “Arc in 3 States,” for instance, shows an arc (a kind of line!) as a sculpture, a light, and a shadow. Her piece was one of the 10 works that received a $500 merit award.
Lillico told Stuff.co.nz that she “sort of re-represented a drawing made by someone else. Drawing, to me, it’s not just about a pencil and paper. I’m using a knife and carpet and hanging it in a space to achieve the same ends.”
And here’s how the prize’s judge, Searaphine Pick, described the work, according to a press release:
Kirsty Lillicos’s work ‘State Block‘ is challenging, brave and impressive. Her use of salvaged carpet for surface material to draw into it with a knife a blueprint plan of a 1940’s modernist high-density concrete block of flats, then presenting it by hanging and draping it from floor to ceiling and transforming the blue print into a three dimensional drawing in space as a floppy, soft and bodily object — quite the opposite to the hard-edged concrete Brutalism style building the plan was designed for people to live in.
Sure — cutting, drawing, it’s all just semantics! Maybe it’s time for the Parkin Drawing Prize to just rebrand as the Parkin Conceptual Art Prize.