Sarah Contos’ Long Kiss Goodbye

At 39, the winner of the $100,000 Ramsay Art Prize, Sarah Contos, had one shot at winning the country’s richest award for young contemporary artists.

The Sydney-based artist received the accolade the day after her 39th birthday, which meant that 2017 was the only year the multidisciplinary artist had a chance at winning the Ramsay as entrants for the biennial prize must be under 40. The Long Kiss Goodbye, her winning work, refers to Contos saying goodbye to a moment in time. The giant patchwork quilt is her most ambitious and largest to date, made up of what was left in the studio.

“I wanted to get rid of all this stuff and that’s the beauty of this quilt, in a sense it’s the truest quilt I have made,” Contos says. “It uses all the scraps and the pieces left over. It has so much memory and history attached to it.”

2017 Ramsay Art Prize winner Sarah Contos with her work Sarah Contos Presents: The Long Kiss Goodbye, 2016, Art Gallery of South Australia, 2017

2017 Ramsay Art Prize winner Sarah Contos with her work Sarah Contos Presents: The Long Kiss Goodbye, 2016, Art Gallery of South Australia, 2017

It took her three months to make and consists of seven panels featuring characters who have appeared in previous exhibitions as well as sparkly fabric that was used in her recent collaboration with fashion label, Romance Was Born.

“I wanted to put all of my artist’s proofs, all of my screen prints from the last few exhibitions into one big object, one big quilt to finish off a period of time,” Contos says.

With such a lucrative sum offered, the Ramsay Art Prize is career changing for any contemporary artist. Contos describes it as “a gift”. While she hasn’t decided yet what to spend the money on, the possibilities are endless.

Contos is a multidisciplinary artist, working across various modes of collage, sculpture and installation. Her practice can be unpredictable and difficult to categorise, as she tends to go with the flow of how she feels.

sarah-contos-long-kiss-goodbye-ramsay-art-prize-adelaide-review
Sarah Contos Presents: The Long Kiss Goodbye, 2016, (detail.) screen-print on linen, canvas and lamé, digital printed fabrics and various found fabrics, PVC, poly-fil, glass, ceramic and plastic beads, thread, artists’ gloves, 610 x 330 x 25 cm

“The thing about my practice is it’s very hard to pinpoint because I tend to change what I do depending on how I feel and what I am interested in at the time, and this affects the material I choose and the subject matter,” Contos says.

While her work varies widely there is always an anchor point at the crux of it — a character which that is either historical or fictional, which in some way informs the direction of the show. For example in her last exhibition at Roslyn Oxley Gallery (Sydney the character was Gloria Swanson who famously played Norma Desmond, a reclusive silent film star, in the 1950 film, Sunset Boulevard.

The work from all 21 Ramsay Prize finalists will be shown at the Art Gallery of South Australia until Sunday, August 27.

Ramsay Art Prize
Art Gallery of South Australia
Until Sunday, August 27
artgallery.sa.gov.au

Header image: Sarah Contos, Australia, born 1978, Sarah Contos Presents: The Long Kiss Goodbye, 2016, screen-print on linen, canvas and lamé, digital printed fabrics
and various found fabrics, PVC, poly-fil, glass, ceramic and plastic beads, thread, artists’ gloves, 610 x 330 x 25 cm; Courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley 9
Gallery, Sydney and STATION Gallery, Melbourne. Photo: Jessica Maurer

 

X