Artists Jen Bowmast, left, and Josephine Cachemaille. Photo: Kate Russell.

Local artists win at national awards

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Two Nelson-based artists are celebrating double success after picking up two national art awards last month.

Josephine Cachemaille of Nelson and Jen Bowmast of Motueka have won a Merit Award at the National Contemporary Art Awards and a Jury Award at the Wallace Art Awards for their collaboration, The Vanguard Project.

The collaboration took place during a six week residency at Salt Gallery on Vanguard St, during July.

Award winner 'Are you picking up what I am putting down?' by Jen Bowmast and Josephine Cachemaille.
Award winner ‘Are you picking up what I am putting down?’ by Jen Bowmast and Josephine Cachemaille.

Both have been recent distance students of AUT’s post graduate art programme and paired up after being “curious” about seeing what they could achieve together.

“We’ve always had a very close eye on each other’s work, and when the opportunity came up for us to take a residency we went ‘absolutely’ – the chance to work together in a big clean space was really unusual,” says Josephine, who holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Art and Design, and a Bachelor of Arts.

The pair left their independent studios and established the working studio together using the surrounding light-industrial area as a source of materials, meanings and methods of making.

Their intention was to ‘not know’ what they were going to do, and the project became the experience of the workshop rather than what they’d made.

Jen, who is now studying towards an MFA in sculpture at the University of Canterbury, says the workshop enabled the public to view the art-making in progress and their experiments, tests and failures – processes which are usually hidden.

“The public was invited to participate as active collaborators by contributing suggestions, materials and wearing the works,” she says. “People would come in with suggestions of what we could make – it was really natural, whatever happened just happened and it was very friendly and social. People were really receptive to it and adventurous themselves.”

Josephine says that when it came to entering both awards, it was just a matter of displaying the artefacts that showed the evidence of the project.

“Our ambition was just to be part of the awards, so to come away with a Jury Award and a Merit Award is amazing,” she says. “Just being a finalist for both was great – there were almost 400 entries for the Wallace Art Awards, and there are not that many opportunities like this for contemporary artists in New Zealand.”

The Wallace Art Awards have been running for 25 years and are the longest surviving and largest annual art awards of their kind in New Zealand. The National Contemporary Art Awards are now in their 17th year.

To check out more about Josephine and Jen’s collaboration, you can visit: http://thevanguardproject.co.nz/