Sara Morawetz wins 2016 ‘the churchie’ National Emerging Art Prize

Sara Morowetz How the stars stand (All sols) and (Dear NASA) 2015 (detail)Sara Morawetz has been announced as the winner of the 2016 churchie national emerging art prize (‘the churchie’) for her artwork, How the stars stand (All sols) and (Dear NASA…).

Created in consultation with NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sarah’s work examines the way in which humans measure and understand time through a performance staged over two months in 2015 at Open Source Gallery in Brooklyn, New York.

In the performance, Sarah examined the structures that time discreetly asserts, studying the physical ramifications that stem from making adjustments to the underlying axiom of time itself.

Sarah lives in Sydney and New York and is completing her PhD at UNSW Art & Design. She is married to NASA mathematician, Dr Darren Engwirda, and acknowledges that his input has influenced her work in gaining insights into how and why scientists work.

Guest judge Kelly Gellatly, Director of the Ian Potter Museum or Art (Melbourne University) awarded the non-acquisitive prize of $15,000 at the opening of the finalists’ exhibition at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Art Museum recently in Brisbane. “The winning work appealed for the complexity of its endeavour and for the artist’s commitment to it,” said Gellatly.

Two additional artists each received a Sam Whiteley Memorial Commendation of $1,000 each – David Greenhalgh for his artwork, Essay (On opposition) 2016 and Lisa Sammut for her artwork, For the time being, 2015–2016.

Established in 1987, ‘the churchie’ has developed as one of Australia’s ‘to watch’ prizes, promising a glimpse into the future of the nation’s contemporary art scene. Now, in the 29th year of the prize, QUT Art Museum has taken on the role of exhibition partner and oversees a revised structure where artists are offered the opportunity to exhibit multiple artworks, thereby allowing work to be seen in the context of the artists’ overall practice.

The new model for ‘the churchie’ aims to offer tangible support, nurturing and encouragement to a new cohort of emerging artists. This is particularly important, as like so many prizes, ‘the churchie’ has become embedded as a rite of passage for artists, as they move through their career to more substantial roles and opportunities, creating and innovating in this country and abroad.

“It was important for us to present all the artists’ works in context so that Kelly could have a good understanding of each artist’s practice. This really enhanced the quality of finalists, and made the judging process all the more difficult,” said Vanessa Van Ooyen, Senior Curator, QUT Art Museum.

From a record field of over 1,000 artworks submitted from 445 entrants, 23 emerging artists were selected as finalists for ‘the churchie’ in 2016. Finalists were selected by a panel comprising Vicky Leighton, Head of Art, Anglican Church Grammar School; Daniel McKewen, artist; and Vanessa Van Ooyen, Senior Curator, QUT Art Museum.

An exhibition of the finalists’ work can be seen at QUT Art Museum in Brisbane until 13 November 2016. For more information, visit: For more information about Sara Morowetz, visit: for details.

Image: Sara Morowetz, How the stars stand (All sols) and (Dear NASA), 2015 (detail).