Last week saw acclaimed visual artist Gina Kalabishis announced as the winner of the 2017 Eutick Memorial Still Life Award (EMSLA), Australia’s only national still life painting prize with a $20,000 cheque attached.

Among the 74 talented finalists selected from over 500 entries nationwide, Melbourne-based Kalabishis’ unique work exploring the feeling of love in all its forms stood out at the award ceremony that took place at the Project Contemporary Artspace in Wollongong on 10 November.

It was the first time since the establishment of the institution 11 years ago that the prestigious awards were held in Wollongong. Curator Dr Leigh Summers said the Illawarra region seemed like a perfect location because of its rich artist residency, the community’s appreciation for the arts, and its proximity to Sydney.

“The criteria we’d be looking for is excellence in any field of still life as long as it’s a painting. So it can be highly abstract or hyperreal or impressionist, and everything in between,” Dr Summers had said when calling for submissions.

Kalabishis’ paintings utilise the motifs and mythology of Australia’s native flora, and creating compositions inspired by ikebana arrangements, she constructs intimate interior/landscape narratives in which the human experience becomes enmeshed with the beauty of nature, thereby fully meeting the award’s requirements.

“I’m so very happy and honoured,” the proud Greek Australian artist told Neos Kosmos.

“It is truly great to see your life’s work and efforts be recognised by one of the most important institutions in Australia. I am thankful to everyone that has supported me.
“This prize will propel me to produce even more art and hopefully I will keep returning the love back into the community.”

Kalabishis is currently part of the Art Gallery of Ballarat’s group exhibition ‘Romancing the Skull’ with themes of mortality, politics and rebellion. The exhibition runs until 28 January 2018.

* Gina Kalabishis holds a post-graduate Diploma of Visual Arts, a Bachelor of Fine Art (Painting) from the Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne University and an Advanced Diploma of Arts (Electronic Design and Interactive Multimedia) from Victoria University. She has featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions in Australia, Spain, Asia, and the US and has been selected for a number of significant national art prizes.

As well as winning the 2017 Eutick Memorial Still Life Award, Kalabishis was the winner of the 2017 People’s Choice Award for the Bayside Acquisitive Art Prize, winner of the 2016 People’s Choice Award for the Bruny Island Art Prize, and a 2016 finalist for the Kedumba Drawing Award.

She recently exhibited in the group exhibition ‘Verdant Garden’ at Bundoora Homestead Art Centre and is included in the current group exhibition ‘Romancing the Skull’ at the Art Gallery of Ballarat. In 2014, Kalabishis was awarded the prestigious Rick Amor Drawing Prize from a field of over 450 submissions. Gina Kalabishis is represented in major collections including the National Gallery of Australia and the Gippsland Art Gallery.