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Tauranga Art Gallery Toi Tauranga, in partnership with Seeds Trust, is delighted to announce Ayesha Green (Kāi Tahu, Ngāti Kahungunu) as the 2021 recipient of the Rydal Art Prize. As the second recipient of the bi-annual award, Green receives $25,000 and an opportunity to develop an exhibition in Tauranga Art Gallery’s 2022 programme.

The Rydal Art Prize was established in 2019 to acknowledge an artist who has made a substantial contribution to contemporary painting. A non-acquisitive award, the Rydal Art Prize seeks to celebrate the vitality that painting continues to have within the diverse contemporary art field in Aotearoa New Zealand. Christina Pataialii was the inaugural 2019 recipient of the award, and her resulting body of work Proximity and Distance is currently on show at the Gallery.

A range of established and emerging painters were short-listed by each of the four judges when they met in Wellington earlier this year to select the unanimous recipient. Following rigorous deliberation, the judges determined that Green’s painting All of my Lovers are Immigrants (Smooth my Pillow), originally presented in her exhibition Wrapped up in Clouds at Dunedin Public Art Gallery (29 August 2020 - 29 November 2020), was a significant achievement and deserving of the prestigious award.

As judge Felicity Milburn describes: ‘Set within the cosy, intimate space of a bedroom, the stories told in these two large canvases are clearly personal. By transforming the bedcovers into glorious flower-filled landscapes, however, Green connects us to a broader narrative: the painful history of colonisation in Aotearoa New Zealand.’

The judges were taken by the depth of historical understanding evidenced in Green’s paintings. ‘Although many early marriages between Māori women and European sealers and whalers were strategic and mutually beneficial’, Milburn continues, ‘Green is astutely aware that these intercultural relationships became a colonising tool, contributing to a series of deliberate attempts to undermine Māori whakapapa (genealogy) and claims to the whenua (land).’

Director of Tauranga Art Gallery Stephen Cleland is delighted to be presenting Green with the award on behalf of the Gallery at a celebratory evening on Friday May 28, 2021, and to be working with Green to develop the forthcoming exhibition. 

‘Ayesha Green is well placed to maximise the benefits of the Award. Following her celebrated exhibition in Dunedin and a string of solo and group exhibitions across the country, her practice has only gone from strength to strength. While Green’s paintings are often characterised by her simple rendition of figures and forms, they represent a bold approach to issues concerning her Māori whakapapa – passed down through women over four generations’, says Cleland.

Green was humbled to be presented with the Prize, anticipating that ‘an award of this magnitude will have many ripple effects in my practice. I am excited to start thinking about the exhibition opportunity I have with Tauranga Art Gallery. I am also honoured to be the second recipient of this Award and immensely grateful to the generous benefactors who have made it possible.’


Ayesha Green (Kai Tahu, Ngāti Kahungunu) is an artist based in Tāmaki Makaurau. Green graduated with a Bachelor of Media Arts from Wintec in 2009 and completed a Master of Fine Arts at Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland in 2013. In 2016 she continued her studies at Auckland university, completing a Graduate Diploma in Arts specialising in Museums and Cultural Heritage. She won the National Contemporary Art Awards in 2019 and in 2020 was an Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi Springboard recipient. Recent exhibitions include: Toi Tū Toi Ora, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, 2020-21; Wrapped up in Clouds, Dunedin Public Art Gallery, 2020; Strands, The Dowse Art Museum, 2019; Tuia — Southern Encounters, The Hocken Gallery, 2019; and Elizabeth the First, Jhana Millers, Wellington, 2019. Her work is represented in public collections across New Zealand, including Te Papa Tongarewa, Dunedin Public Art Gallery, The Dowse Art Museum, The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery I Len Lye Centre, and MTG, Hawkes Bay Tai Ahuriri.


2021 Rydal Art Prize Judges:

Ioana Gordon-Smith is Curator Māori Pacific at Pātaka Art + Museum, Porirua. Gordon-Smith regularly contributes to a range of journals, including Art New Zealand, Art News New Zealand and un Magazine and is a regular Pasifika correspondent for Radio New Zealand. She was the NZ-based project manager for the inaugural Honolulu Biennial 2017, and is Assistant Curator for Yuki Kihara’s forthcoming exhibition as Aotearoa New Zealand representative at the 59th Venice Biennale 2022.

Associate Professor Peter Shand is the Head of School at Elam School of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland. Shand has a PhD in Art History from The University of Auckland and an LLM in intellectual and cultural property from King’s College, London. Shand’s research interests include contemporary art, fashion theory and practice, and creativity and the law.

Felicity Milburn is Lead Curator at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū (2020-). She has curated numourous exhibitions at Christchurch Art Gallery, including the Rolling Maul series in the Gallery’s temporary offsite space in 2012, Tanya Schultz’s Pip & Pop: The newest new world, and Jacqueline Fahey: Say Something! Previously she studied Art History and English at Canterbury University and worked at the McDougall Contemporary Art Annex and the former Robert McDougall Art Gallery in the Botanic Gardens, Christchurch.

Panel Convenor:

Karl Chitham (Ngāpuhi) is the Director of Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt. Chitham was Director and Curator of Tauranga Art Gallery Toi Tauranga from 2015-2019 and has been involved in the arts sector for over 15 years as a curator, artist and writer. His recent exhibitions include The Most Dedicated: An Aotearoa Graffiti Story at The Dowse Art Museum, and ART LOVES YOU – an interactive experience for all the senses and Children of Mallarme: Fashion, Art & Collaboration (co-curated with Peter Shand) at Tauranga Art Gallery.  

Image Credits:

  1. Ayesha Green, All of my Lovers are Immigrants (Smooth my Pillow), 2020, pictured at Dunedin Art Gallery, 2020
  2. Portrait of Ayesha Green, courtesy of the artist

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