Shivanjani Lal awarded the 2019 Carstairs Prize

The National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA) is pleased to announce Shivanjani Lal as the 2019 recipient of the $3,000 Carstairs Prize for socially engaged practice. An additional highly commended prize of $1,000 was awarded to Laura Jade. 

Shivanjani Lal is a twice-removed Fijian-Indian-Australian artist and curator. She works across mediums to explore her dislocation that seeks to account for memory, erasure, healing and the archive. Her current research posits that her body and the landscapes she is from hold the grief of being removed. Her work attempts to document and create gestures of healing.

The Carstairs Prize offers assistance to an Australian artist to present a socially engaged art project that embraces participatory and collaborative experiences. The aim of the funding is to bring participants into active dialogue with the artist in order to involve audiences beyond the art community.

As the recipient of the prize, Lal is using the funds toward artists’ fees for the fourteen Fijian and Indo-Fijian artists in her project Bittersweet at Casula Powerhouse May-July 2020. This exhibition will reflect shared histories of food, community and grief. It is the next iteration following her exhibition Landings, presented in New Zealand earlier this year, which marked the 140th anniversary of the Indian community arriving in Fiji and explored the relationship iTaukei and Indo-Fijians. Bittersweet will be a meditation on food, removal, grief and how communities come together and have the capacity to remake themselves in diaspora.

On receiving the prize Lal said: “I am delighted to accept the 2019 Carstairs Prize. This award allows me to support artists from my community to realise new work for Bittersweet, an exhibition being held at Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre in May 2020. I am particularly excited to support emerging voices from Fiji and am grateful to NAVA and the Carstairs donor for this opportunity.”

This is the third year of the new program supported by the donor of the previous Carstairs Residency Prize. Named after the Carstairs, the prize drew its name from an intriguing and eccentric blend of writers, poets, painters, pianists, and illustrators who immigrated to Australia from Fife, Scotland in the 19th century.

A highly commended prize of $1,000 has also been award to Laura Jade, a Sydney-based light artist working in the multidisciplinary fields of art, biology, illumination design, neuroscience and BCI (brain-computer interface) technology to explore new ways of perceiving and interacting with our inner biological processes.

“I am delighted and very grateful to be awarded a highly commended Carstairs Prize, 2019. This award will contribute to the development of a new trans-disciplinary project titled Mental Equilibrium: Ephemeral Cinema which explores the Ganzfeld phenomenon through an immersive light and sound installation controlled by the audience’s brain and heart activity. The project will facilitate my continued professional and creative growth towards the frontier of interactive bio-feedback artworks as well as allowing me to expand my expertise in using mind-driven artworks to generate intimate and transformative experiences for audiences. Thank you to NAVA and the Carstairs Prize donor for the opportunity to develop and share this art-science collaboration with a broader audience and research community.”

The Carstairs Prize is funded by a private donor and administered by NAVA. Providing this kind of philanthropic support can be a source of great satisfaction in making a valuable contribution to supporting living Australian artists. For more information about how you can make a tax-exempt donation toward one of NAVA’s existing grants, or to set up an entirely new program shaped to your ideas and named for your family, legacy or artistic focus, please contact Penelope Benton on (02) 9368 1900.

Photo by Shira Wachsmann