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Artist Tawhai Rickard (Ngaati Uepohatu, Ngaati Porou) has won the prestigious $20,000 National Contemporary Art Award for a “nuanced and generous” installation titled Scenes from a Victorian Restaurant.

The winning work was selected by Melanie Oliver, highly respected arts curator and judge for the 2023 National Contemporary Art Award at Hamilton’s Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga O Waikato. 

Announcing the prize at an awards ceremony held on Friday 28 July, Oliver said: 

“Rickard’s work Scenes of a Victorian Restaurant invites viewers to take a seat at the table, challenging us all to engage in a discussion on the bicultural foundations of Aotearoa. It is a provocation that is nuanced and generous, prompting us to think about the ongoing impacts of colonisation, and our failings in terms of Te Tiriti. This work clearly speaks to the most pressing issues of our time.” 

Through the National Contemporary Art Award’s traditional blind-judging process (concealing the artist names from the judge), Scenes from a Victorian Restaurant was chosen from an unprecedented volume of entries, with more than 420 works submitted by Aotearoa New Zealand based here and overseas. The 41 finalist works are now on exhibit at Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato until 12 November (free entry). 

“Melanie Oliver has selected a truly extraordinary work from a selection that reveals the talent, depth, creativity and bravery of our contemporary arts sector” said Liz Cotton, Director of Museum and Arts, Waikato Museum. 

“My congratulations go to all award winners and finalists, and deep appreciation to our award sponsors, without whom we would not be able to offer this award, and to our wonderful judge”. 

The National Contemporary Art Award was launched in 2000 by the Waikato Society of Arts and has been facilitated and hosted by Waikato Museum since 2006. Leading New Zealand law firm Tompkins Wake is the principal sponsor and has supported the competition since 2014. 

The prize winners announced at the awards ceremony today are: 

2023 National Contemporary Art Award, $20,000 prize sponsored by Tompkins Wake 

Tawhai Rickard for Scenes from a Victorian Restaurant (reclaimed wood, enamel/acrylic paint). 

2023 Runner Up and winner of the $5,000 Hugo Charitable Trust Award 
Sung Hwan Bobby Park for BTM 조상 초상화 Ancestor Portrait (digital photograph).
2023 Friends of Waikato Museum $1,000 Merit Award winner 
Hannah Ireland for Stained Cheery Wine (watercolour, ink and acrylic on found window).

2023 Random Art Group $1,000 Merit Award winner 
Sara (Hera) Tautuku Orme for Darling, Tēnei Au (photograph). 

The Campbell Smith Memorial People’s Choice Award, worth $250, is sponsored by the Smith family as a tribute to the former Waikato Museum Director, artist, playwright and poet. It will be presented to the winner of the most votes by the visiting public just before the Award exhibition closes in November. 

The finalists for the 2023 National Contemporary Art Award are: 

  • Brett a'Court, Northland Te Tai Tokerau 
    Thomas Kendall’s Affair (oil on prepared woollen blanket on canvas support) 
  • Rachel Hope Allan, Dunedin Ootepoti 
    Tuesday (photograph) 
  • Colleen Altagracia, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau 
    A kiss (electric cable, embroidery thread, magnet, crocodile clips, air) 
  • Naomi Azoulay, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau 
    Tehlor II (oil on stretched canvas) 
  • Debbie Barber, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau 
    When I rub the rocks on my jeans they polish differently. (clay, denim) 
  • Jordan Barnes, New Plymouth Ngaamotu 
    Adam (after Michelangelo) (graphite on paper) 
  • Tori Beeche, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau 
    The Daily Cosmic Order (oil on linen) 
  • Deborah Body, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau 
    The remains of the day. (acrylic and oil on unstretched canvas) 
  • Emily Brown, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau 
    Final Fantasy (toner print on silk) 
  • D Milton Browne, Dunedin Ootepoti 
    Recycle Day (photograph - archival giclée inkjet print) 
  • Esther Bunning, Greytown Te Hupenui 
    The gilded shift (photograph) 
  • Cathy Carter, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau 
    Liquid Gold (Fujiflex Crystal Archive C-type silver halide photographic print) 
  • Cathy Carter, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau 
    Plunge, Klein Blue (giclée print on Hahnemühle Ultra Smooth paper) 
  • Katherine Claypole, Whanganui
    Tears of Gabrielle (hand stitched metallic thread on painted stretched canvas)  
  • Antony Densham, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau 
    C15.2023 (acrylic on canvas) 
  • Kim Fifield, Tauranga 
    The Wrack Line (algae-based bioplastic, shell, macro-seaweed, barnacles, driftwood, plastic, leaves, feathers, sand, aluminium panel)  
  • Alastair Floyd, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau 
    Heavy Industries (acrylic paint, pigment ink, acrylic ink on Fabriano Artistico acid-free cotton rag) 
  • Hannah Ireland, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau 
    Stained Cheery Wine (watercolour, ink and acrylic on found window) 
    Merit Award winner 
  • Bena Jackson, Wellington Te Whanganui-a-Tara 
    Flipping skateboards (pale) (mosaic - ceramic tiles, cement board, adhesive, grout, steel) 
  • Reece King, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau 
    Se’i ou va’ai (oil and enamel on canvas) 
  • Cecelia Kumeroa, Whanganui 
    Manu Tioriori (digital media) 
  • Theo Macdonald, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau 
    Light of the Pacific (digitised 16mm film) 
  • Leanne Morrison, Hastings Heretaunga 
    11 (acrylic and enamel on canvas, stretcher, wooden sticks) 
  • Ella Grace Nicol, Hamilton Kirikiriroa 
    Tears of Ranginui (Dew on the Emerald Dagger Moss) (glass beads, sterling silver, palladium, pewter, nylon thread) 
  • Shannon Novak, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau 
    Two Lovers in Fiordland (digital print on paper) 
  • Mark O'Donnell & Cameron Rey, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau 
    Cheese and Onion (yellow plastic, black foam, clear adhesives, pins, paint, varnish) 
  • Sara (Hera) Tautuku Orme, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau 
    Darling, Tēnei Au (photograph) 
    Merit Award winner 
  • Maria O'Toole, Wellington Te Whanganui-a-Tara 
    Poems to Oceania: Vanuatu, April 2023 (crayon on Fabriano paper) 
  • Sung Hwan Bobby Park, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau 
    BTM 조상 초상화 Ancestor Portrait (digital photograph) 
    Runner Up - 2023 National Contemporary Art Award 
  • Marilyn Rea-Menzies, Westport Kawatiri 
    Lichen 2 (handwoven tapestry) 
  • Tawhai Rickard, Tauranga 
    Scenes from a Victorian Restaurant (reclaimed wood, enamel/acrylic paint) 
    Winner - 2023 National Contemporary Art Award 
  • Naomi Roche, Hamilton Kirikiriroa 
    Cold Comfort for the Contemporary Human (textile) 
  • Warisara Thomson, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau 
    I think I’m homesick (single channel, moving image) 
  • Jenny Tomlin, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau 
    All my ghosts (photograph) 
  • Hannah Valentine, Tauranga 
    New Routine (If there’s pleasure in action, there’s peace in stillness) (cast bronze and cord) 
  • Anja Vallis, Taupoo 
    Granny’s trippin’ (wool and acrylic yarn mix, black calico) 
  • Rīhari Warnock, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau 
    Moemoea (ink on Arches cold press, 600gsm paper) 
  • Amanda Watson, Raglan Whaaingaroa 
    In the sun near the kohekohe (ink, pigment, and glue size on canvas) 
  • Siniva Williams, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau 
    Nanna’s wairua (digital photograph, digitally painted on Hahnemühle German Etching 310gsm Textured Matte paper) 
  • Benjamin Work, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau 
    I look above to where my help comes from (acrylic on canvas) 
  • Cora-Allan, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau 
    Kai Paraoa (whenua (pukepoto and karangahape blush) on hiapo)

Details of the exhibition, which runs until 12 November, are available on the Waikato Museum website All artworks in the exhibition are available for sale and entry is free.

Artist statements 

Tawhai Rickard, Tauranga 
Scenes from a Victorian Restaurant (reclaimed wood, enamel/acrylic paint) 
Winner - 2023 National Contemporary Art Award 

‘Scenes from a Victorian Restaurant’ is an installation that partially examines the cultural nuances of Aotearoa, New Zealand from a social and political perspective. It is a visual ode to the bicultural relationship between Māori and non Māori.  

The setting is a Victorian restaurant with wall hangings that feature scenes pertinent to our country’s cultural landscape. These are presented in an anti chronological nature promoting historical and contemporary characters and narratives. The aesthetic integrity of my work aligns with our country’s bicultural foundations through the use of Victorian baroque elements combined with the figurative painting style of my ancestral house Hinetapora circa 1896.  

The title of this work transpired during the conceptual process, being influenced by one of progressive rock’s musical classics. The songs storyline and two main characters are decontextualised in accordance with the eventual breakdown of our country’s bicultural foundations and the abiding invitation to return to it. 

Sung Hwan Bobby Park, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau 
BTM 조상 초상화 Ancestor Portrait (digital photograph) 
Runner Up - 2023 National Contemporary Art Award 

BTM 방탄모, a series of ceramic sculptures and fiber works, interrogates the South Korean military's homophobic policies and treatment of LGBTQ+ people. 

With the constitution requiring all males to serve in the military and yet with internal policies like Korean military law Article 92-6 that criminalizes homosexuality, it forces queer individuals to live in silence while at the same time being subject to violence and the constant threat of prosecution.  

This portraiture is in the style of Joseon dynasty portraiture. Having historic documentation and recognition provides communities of different identities with a sense of stability and validity. The lack of recognition and education about queer history, narratives, and documentation in Asian history uproots this sense of validation, and pride and gives the background to continue creating laws and policies that are hostile and discriminatory towards queer people in Asia. This image is created to reinsert and reimagine queer history. 


Sara (Hera) Tautuku Orme, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau 
Darling, Tēnei Au (photograph) 
Merit Award winner 

‘Tēnei Au’ is part of an ongoing kaupapa exploring connection with Whenua, Tūpuna and Wairua. The underlying beat of colonisation simmers. kōrero brings new life. This series is driven by those I photograph and my own tūpuna who drive and watch over me. I listen, and this becomes a toanga for all.

Darling embraces her own mana motuhake. “I had heaps of masculine and feminine energy today. It just mashed together. I’m no longer the person I was a year ago. All my druggie stuff. I know I’m going to overcome fucking cancer. I’m a stubborn bitch, even when I am always getting a growling from my conscience. It’s like I’m three different people arguing with myself…My head, my spirit, and probably my heart. Today, in my Wairere I felt a bit scared. A waiata just busted out of me. It's fitting. I didn’t know it was coming.”  


Hannah Ireland, Auckland Taamaki Makaurau 
Stained Cheery Wine (watercolour, ink and acrylic on found window) 
Merit Award winner 

Clothed in a variation of marks that warp, map, and construct each figure: each mark seeks rest upon a surface resistant to forming a harmonic relationship. Painted directly onto a glass surface, the index of the painting is viewed in reverse when flipped, revealing the finished side. This multi-step process allows the potential for abstraction, ambiguity and spontaneity with the resulting portrait embodying a vagueness that encourages speculative analysis.  

Through the mode of painting, the artist is able to explore the muddiness and snottiness of the human condition, and counteract the externally driven, curated image that we often bring to the forefront.  

Each portrait serves to praise the murkiness and celebrate the lingering shadows of the self, spotlighting the ugly facets that also contribute to the whole, whether we like to admit it or not. 


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