Ravenswood celebrates women’s art as the 2024 Art Prize opens for entries.

The Ravenswood Australian Women’s Art Prize was established in 2017 to advance art and opportunity for emerging and established women artists in Australia.

The Prize has grown extraordinarily since then and attracted a massive 2,042 entries in 2023, two-and-a-half times more than the Archibald Prize.

It is the highest-value professional artist prize for women in Australia, with the Professional Artist Prize at $35,000, the Emerging Artist Prize at $5,000 and the Indigenous Artist Prize at $5,000.

Ravenswood School for Girls principal Anne Johnstone tells North Shore Living that the Prize demonstrates the school’s passion and commitment to women’s education and empowerment.

“This generous art prize is our contribution to advancing Australia’s talented women artists, providing them with greater opportunities for recognition and career development,” Ms Johnstone says.

“We believe it will enhance the visibility and significance of art careers for current and emerging Australian women artists and hopefully inspire future generations of artists as well.”

Maria Fernanda Cardoso with her winning art

Sydney-based artist Maria Fernanda Cardoso won the 2023 Professional Artist Prize for her digital microphotography work Actual Size V (maratus made linear), which is the belly of an Australian maratus jumping spider. The photo is created through a process called stacking, with 1,000 images taken through a microscope forged into one photo.

Maria says the spider is male (the female is brown) and only about three to five millimetres long. “They camouflage when closed, but their abdomen opens up like a peacock in a complex courtship display,” she says. “They move and shake to attract the attention of females. The male has to be the most handsome and the best dancer. The females call the shots.”

Maria works with a multitude of mediums. She said she loves the natural world and wants to show it to everyone. “I used to have a flea circus and I used to magnify the performance of the fleas,” Maria says. “I love small things.”

Maria says the Ravenswood Australian Women’s Art Prize is essential for women’s art in Australia.

“I love that it’s in the context of women,” says Maria. “I went to an all-girls school and art was an important part of my experience. It’s important to have a dedicated audience.”

Alethea Richter loves colour and movement

Brisbane based artist Alethea Richter was honoured to take home the 2023 Emerging Artist Prize for her silkscreen artwork Untitled (Dissolution 1). Alethea, also a graphic designer, creates hand printed screen prints. “The medium of screen print allows me to combine the computer skills I have from my graphic design work,” she tells North Shore Living. “It allows me to really look at colour and movement.”

“The process I use is very organic, so it’s responding to the layers as I apply them and it was built without knowing what the end would look like. So I was very proud of the way it turned out.”

“(The prize) has been the most phenomenal validation for my art practice because it’s on a national platform, and the calibre of work included in the prize was of such a high level that to be recognised in that award was mind-blowing,” Alethea says.

She says it’s not always easy to make a career in art, especially as a woman.

“From my own experience when there’s family life and other commitments involved, it is incredibly difficult to carve out a meaningful and sustainable art practice,” Alethea says. “So I think having a prize that recognises women and their contribution to Australian art is extremely valid.”

Freyja Fristad won Indigenous Emerging Artist

Wiradjuri artist Freyja Fristad, also Sydney-based, won the 2023 Indigenous Emerging Artist award for her work Interference of Perception: Rhopography (Lamp).

Freyja’s finely carved work uses linoleum relief printing and horizontally-lined bitmap on images. This results in the image perception being impossible up close and more legible from a few steps back.

Freyja says the Indigenous Emerging Artist award was first Prize she’d ever applied for and she was excited to be a finalist.

“Winning the prize was definitely a pleasant surprise!” Freyja tells North Shore Living. “I’m so proud that as a Wiradjuri woman, I could represent my family, community and culture.”

Freyja says the Indigenous Prize has helped ‘validate her practice’.

“Even though my printmaking style isn’t what is stereotypically thought of as being traditional Indigenous art, it helps show that all art made by Indigenous people is still Indigenous art,” she says.

Freyja agrees with her fellow prize winners that gender inequity exists in the Australian art world.

“It has definitely improved,” said Freyja. “But when you look at the finalists and winners for many of the prestigious Australian art awards and prizes, you notice they are often in favour of men.”

Freyja said throughout her art studies, she found that most students were women.

“However, there is still a gap between women thriving in their studies, to the art institutions and workplaces they move into afterwards,” Freyja says.

“It is appreciated there are art prizes such as Ravenswood striving to help counteract the inequality,” Freya says.

“I think the Ravenswood Australian Women’s Artist Prize is an incredible example of how showcasing women’s talent helps improve the status of women artists.”

The 2024 Ravenswood Australian Women’s Art Prize is now open for entries. For information visit ravenswoodartprize.com