The wall that won the Parkin Prize 2023

A Wellingtonian has taken the top prize at the Parkin Drawing Award.

Connah Podmore’s Street light (the room where your brother was born) beat off 500 entries and 86 finalists to the prestigious title and a whopping $25,000 prize money. The award, which is in it’s 11th year is sponsored by arts patron, and philanthropist Chris Parkin.

Connah’s winning drawing, created using charcoal on lining paper, depicts her living room wall, which she spent months staring at during late nights feeding her infant son.

“It is an ordinary room, where ordinary things happened but significant to me as this is where we spent our days when my children were young. When they were babies, I used to stare at the changing shadows on this wall as I nursed them to sleep each night.

One of my key aims for this piece is to draw attention to the depth present in what we overlook as ordinary and unremarkable. This idea is particularly important to me when thinking about motherhood and acts of caregiving generally.”

Her winning drawing is part of a series which reflects on her experiences as a stay-at-home parent to her two children. This body also holds mine, commissioned by Te Tuhi in Auckland in 2019 was the first in this series, and depicted her son’s bedroom wall.

As well as parenting Connah currently works part-time at Inverlochy Art School in Te Aro. She’s holds a Bachelor of Science, a Bachelor of Arts in Art History at Otago University, and Masters in Fine Arts at Massey University in Wellington.

An exhibition of the finalists works, including the winning piece is being held at New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts until 11 September 2023.

Competition judge and Director of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, Kirsten Lacey said, “The winning work of the Parkin drawing prize is a beautifully rendered blank wall, installed life size, quite literally on the gallery wall. This drawing evokes for the viewer our own domestic spaces, where we come to intimately know of our own blank walls. Walls which are never really blank but inscribed with changing shadows, patterns marks and potholes of life. Blank walls which are in fact personal, known to us by virtue of the reflected light of possessions, gifted or bought and their associated memories, while light passes over our roofs marking time across the surface. Walls renovated, re-painted, pock marked from picture frames, or the scuff of boots.

I loved this work for the attention put to the drawing of blankness, so as the viewer can meditate on what fills their walls. I felt it to be a metaphor for the challenge of meditating with an empty mind, allowing the day’s thoughts and images to pass by as we seek refuge from constant information and content.”

In 2021 another of Connah’s work’s was Highly Commended in the Parkin Drawing Prize. On winning this year she said, “I certainly wasn’t expecting to win so I am feeling quite overwhelmed. There are some amazing drawings in this exhibition, so just to be part of the show was an honour for me.”

This year, for the first time the Parkin Prize gave out 12 highly commended prizes, each worth $500. Five of which were from the Wellington region, including The Day He Told Me He’d Died by Kata Brown (Wellington, 2022), Ironing Bored by Jann Lenihan (Masterton, 2023), 40 hour work week by Frances Krsinich (Wellington, 2023), Ruby by Bonnie Wroe (Wellington, 2022), and Take it away by Emily Harris (Lower Hutt, 2023).

All the artworks in the 2023 Parkin Drawing Prize shortlist will be for sale.

The Parkin Drawing Prize exhibition will run from Wednesday 2 August – Sunday, 11 September at the NZ Academy of Fine Arts in Wellington.


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