In the beginning, there was the Founder’s Award, which I launched in 2013 to celebrate art that I felt the Jury Panel had missed. These were works that uniquely aimed at engaging audiences. The first winner was Genetic Moo, the dynamic duo who create works that begged to be touched. But in time, this kind of work became extremely popular with the Jury Panel – so much so that last year’s Gold Award winner, Thijs Biersteker, won for an interactive work, Plastic Reflectic.
I’m hugely proud of all Founder’s Award winners – who include some of the most talented artists to win a Lumen – but it seemed that the point of the award was now redundant. At the same time, I had a look at some disturbing math. Just under 40% of our entrants this year were women, but the longlist women-to-men ratio was 30/70 and the shortlist ratio was even more lopsided. The winners this year are astounding, but the only woman who isn’t part of a collective to win an award is Meural Student Prize Award winner, Ziwei Wu.
So, in an effort to correct this imbalance, I’ve dropped the Founder’s Award and launched, in its place, the Rapoport Award for Women in Digital Art. I’m hoping the award will encourage more women to enter and that more work by women can be celebrated. A seminar, more prize money, and other ways to enhance the prize are all under consideration, providing me with a nice new project.
Meet the Winner
I’m pleased to announce the very first winner of this award, as revealed last week at our winner’s ceremony, is Felicity Hammond for her photographic installation, In Defence of Industry, which brings into focus the relationship between the industrial history of the northwest of England and the wider Cumbrian landscape, in particular the area’s mining history and the subsequent shift towards the nuclear industry. Using an arresting palette of earthy tones along with a mix of images placed into a built environment, the work raises themes around defence, secrecy and the unseen earth below the surface.
Felicity’s work is installed as a four-metre lightbox, positioned on the edge of a pond created in the gallery space. I’m particularly struck by the ambitious nature of the work – this is no simple photo-manipulation. And indeed, when I met Felicity, she emphasised that the intersection of installation and photography have always been at the heart of her practice. We agreed that the term photo-manipulation gets a bad rap in the art world – unless your name is David Hockney or Andreas Gursky. But as she points out, “It’s really the manipulation of the pixel, not the photo,” that drives her image-making. She aims, once she’s finished with her PhD, to do more ambitious works, always searching for the very highest possible production values possible.
The technology she depends on, Photoshop, is not the most esoteric of the technologies employed by Lumen artists, but she uses it the way a top musician uses a fine violin – with skilled expression and dedication. Further, her wish to take landscape photography out of the frame and into the gallery – as well as site-specific locations – makes her the winner she is, as well as one to watch.
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