Friday, 9 September 2011

ARTIST OF THE YEAR: Lawrence’s candid photo series takes Super Plus Under-40 Jury Prize

PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST: "It proves that my effort was worth it,” Lawrence says of his triumph.

“My work is really questioning all aspects of masculinity,” says O’Neil Lawrence, in reference to his haunting and provocative self-portrait series of photos, which recently secured him the 2011 Super-Plus Under-40 Artist of the Year Jury Prize. “It is based on me coming to terms with my masculinity and overcoming the different things I always believed I lacked. And it was baptismal because I pretty much put myself front and centre in the work. And that’s an acknowledgment that [the work] is about me.”

Evidently, the beauty and naked honesty of Lawrence’s autobiographical account of his journey – and that of countless other young men – resonated with the estimable panel of adjudicators (including David Boxer and Petrona Morrison), resulting in his triumph over fellow finalists Cosmo Whyte and Duane Bennett, who took home the People’s Prize (based on public vote). “I know that jury wasn’t an easy one, so I’m happy that they chose my work because it proves that my effort was worth it.”

Along with the prestige of being dubbed Under-40 Artist of the Year, Lawrence’s coveted honours include a cash prize of $100,000 and a future solo exhibition at the Mutual Gallery, which hosted the competition.

As for what he’ll explore next through his art, Lawrence isn’t quite sure. “All artists are essentially and continually working on societal issues,” he says. “Sometimes focused on the human body.”

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