An emotional and confronting painting of a man engaged in auto asphyxiation has won the $50,000 Kilgour Prize at Newcastle Art Gallery. Auto asphyxiation is defined, in part, as a state of asphyxia intentionally induced (as by smothering or strangling oneself) so as to heighten sexual arousal. The winning work, titled Between you and me2017, by 29-year-old Sydney artist Cameron Stead, formerly of Grenfell, was announced at the exhibit opening to crowd of more than 500. The artwork is painted on latex, an unusual surface for painting, and a material subject to degradation over time. Judges called it “a brave painting that is challenging, temporary in nature and honest”.
Newcastle Herald art critic Jill Stowell said the judges went for “drama, not drawing”, and acknowledged it would not have been her winning choice. The winning artwork is non-acquisitive. Stead, a student at the National Art School in Sydney, attended the Hunter School for the Performing Arts and studied at the University of Newcastle through 2011.
“I think I was in a little bit of shock,” he said of learning he had won the valuable prize.
The artwork is a self-portrait. “I did semi suffocate myself to really feel the loss of air,” he said. “I wouldn’t recommend people put a bag over their head.”
The Kilgour Prize exhibition with all 30 finalists’ works runs to October 15.