Still 2021 Opens: A Reflection of Our Times

Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery throws open the doors to its signature art prize, Still: National Still Life Award 2021, on Saturday August 14, and reveals how it’s adapting to a new virtual reality in a pandemic. 

For the first time, the ultimate winner of the $30,000 art prize will be announced in a virtual opening ceremony, broadcast live from the gallery. 

With many parts of Australia under travel restrictions, the livestream allows all 59 finalists vying for the prize to still be part of the excitement of opening night. In another first, the general public is also invited to the opening online from wherever they are in the world. 

Making the announcement live from Sydney online is guest judge and Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Elizabeth Ann Macgregor OBE.

Attracting works from every state and territory, the third Still: National Still Life Award is the biggest and most diverse ever with 59 finalists selected from a record field of over 1,000 entries. 

The Coffs Coast proudly boasts seven of the Still finalists:- Coffs Harbour’s Samuel Beattie and Peggy Zephyr, Sawtell’s Violetta Lanza, Valla’s Christine Wilson, Sapphire Beach’s John Van Der Kolk, and Bellingen’s Polly Wells and Nikky Morgan-Smith.

According to Gallery Curator, Chloe Waters, the biennial award is a reflection of the last two years, and the 2021 works will challenge our thinking on themes from First Nations experiences to addressing climate concerns. 

“There has been no shortage of extreme events that have driven people indoors, prompting reflection and uncovering truths in time to be captured in this year’s award,” says Chloe.

A young woman wearing a surgical mask holding an art work
Chloe Waters with Yannick Blattner’s Force a smile for summer 2021

“In Force a smile for summer 2021 by Yannick Blattner, the floating smiley face is a deflated pool device – our ‘bubbles’ burst’, in thinking we can enjoy our summers without action on climate change, remembering the catastrophic bushfires of 2019-2020.”

“Living through a pandemic is front of mind in Regi Cherini’s stitched tribute to the objects of most prominence in Pandemic 2020: a mask, toilet paper and sanitiser. While the defunct arts building in Steve Bush’s Memento Mori 2020, resonates with the bleak reality the arts has faced with rolling closures and job losses. Despite this, creativity has persisted,” adds Chloe.

Still 2021 Opens: A Reflection of Our Times
Pandemic by Regi Cherini 2020

Another virtual innovation for Still 2021 is a new 3D Tour of the exhibition launching by September, opening the artists’ works to the world and anyone unable to visit in person. This also delivers a wider audience for the artists to sell their work at a time the creative industries need support.

Still: National Still Life Award 2021 exhibition opens 14 August to 23 October at Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery as part of its 20th anniversary celebrations. Watch the opening event and the winner announcement livestreamed from the gallery’s Facebook page from 6pm on Saturday August 14.