Greek-Australian artist Tina Stefanou was awarded the Schenberg Art Fellowship from the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA) on October 9 of this year. The fellowship, worth $50,000, is one of the most prestigious awards for up and coming contemporary artists in Australia.
Stefanou, a graduate of the Victorian College of the Arts at Melbourne University, was chosen for the Schenberg Fellowship out of a pool of 56 highly-talented artists from around the country.
Stefanou works primarily with experimental audio and visual media, as well as performance. Upon receiving the award, Stefanou noted that, “As an emerging artist, you feel as if you are always fighting against a tide of doubt,” but that in being awarded the fellowship, she felt that her work and artistic process had been recognized.
In fact, according to a statement by PICA, judges found Stefanou’s works to be “incredibly absorbing, drawing the viewer into their spell.”
Two of her pieces were featured in PICA’s Hatched exhibition for emerging artists in Australia’s vibrant art world. Many of the country’s most well-known contemporary artists have begun their careers after showing their work at Hatched.
Her piece Horse Power (2019) features her grandmother’s voice and her own singing laid over video of horses donning ornamental accessories fixed with bells, creating a beautiful musical piece. In the work, Stefanou explores the universal theme of aging, as well as her own family’s history as Greek immigrants.
Stefanou frequently incorporates animals in her work, viewing them as collaborators in the artistic processes, rather than just her subjects.
Addressing the lack of female voices in both art and art history, Stefanou portrayed three naked male upright bass musicians playing the difficult compositions of St. Hildegard of Bingen, the Benedictine abbess, visionary, and polymath of the Middle Ages, in her piece Antiphonea (2019).
The players appear to struggle with St. Hildegard’s notoriously complicated and beautiful compositions. Although the saint, who lived in the 1100s, has long been recognized for her genius among medieval scholars and the Catholic Church, which named her a Doctor of the Church in 2012, her outstanding accomplishments are virtually unknown the the broader world.
Stefanou’s use of music and performance in Antiphonea (2019) reflects the stunning range of themes explored in her work. She is currently in her first year of the Master of Fine Art program at the University of Melbourne. More information and stills of her work can be seen on her website.