Now in its 18th year, the Redlands Konica Minolta Art Prize is once again hitting Sydney. Running from April 11 until May 15 at the National Art School,the prize aims to showcase some of the best contemporary art and artists in Australia.

What makes the prize unique is the pairing of established artists with emerging ones that share artistic similarities and inspiration. Curator Tim Johnson selected 20 artists from around Australia and New Zealand to put forward a single work, and each of those artists was also required to invite an emerging artist to present work in the prize.

This means that the Redlands Art Prize brings together a myriad of different artistic forms, themes and mediums. One of the most intriguing contestants this year is Sarah Contos and her piece Personification Of Past And Future Mythologies (Double-Headed Barry), which Contos describes as a “collaged screen print on linen … framed in a soft frame of velvet and polka dots and adorned with ceramic beads that I’ve just started making. It harks back to this idea of the 1970s wall hangings like macramé. So it’s something that looks quite crafty.”

Contos is known for work that explores the ideas of mythology, psychology, fetish, history and iconography, and her latest piece continues to investigate these fascinating themes. “I’m interested in creating new mythologies that are kind of based upon Greek mythology, Australian iconography or past popular Australian icons,” says Contos. “So in the piece it’s this woman who is juxtaposed with a double-headed Barry Crocker. My father’s Greek so I kind of like the idea of this wealth of mythology and trying to make that part of my own personal mythology and creating these fantastical creatures.”

Contos will be showing her work alongside established artist Caroline Rothwell, with whom she has shared interests in terms of both themes and materials. The pair are being referred to as the ‘History Duo’ due to their exploration of mythologies and artistic resurrection of the past. As Contos explains, “I see similarities between our processes and we like to do a lot of the same things. She uses a lot of textiles and embroidery, abstract sculpture but also figurative and then all of her vinyl plasticky and bondage-dripping kind of works which fit in with some of my past work. I think we’re also similar tonally. We don’t make many bright works; I think there’s a darkness to it.”

The material and techniques used by Contos is reflective of both her personal interests and the physical context from which she’s approaching the work. “I really love materiality and texture and I work from my apartment so at the moment I like things that are quite pretty and soft for me to manipulate at home. But I also like the luxurious quality of linen. There’s also a tacky polka dot against this kind of crafty Western Australian use of ceramics. So I like the play of them mashing together.”

One of the most interesting features of Contos’ work is her ownership and personalisation of the past. “I guess all cultures have a version of niche or icons and where I take it is from my own personal framework where I’m influenced by so many things and I like to kind of put them together and create something that is a little bit fetishized or I resurrect it from something; like a history that’s been forgotten or a personality that was amazing or that was in the limelight and resurrect them into a new being. I kind of like this idea of transformation, resurrection and just my own kind of slant on it.”

The Redlands Konika Minolta Art Prize is happening at the National Art School from Friday April 11 to Thursday May 15.

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