Whale, Samuel Greer - Winner of the Inaugural AEU SA SACE Art Prize

Dash Taylor Johnson, AEU SA Vice President

Nuts, bolts, springs, spanners, scissors and a range of other metallic components are strategically buffed and bonded in Whale. What the artist has done in melding mechanical elements into the body of a species increasingly at risk, is to juxtapose human endeavour with our natural  environment in an exquisite demonstration of artistic skill and manipulation of this medium.

Sam’s sculpture radiates calm, warmth and motion as  his subject dives into an unknown future, a future that humanity will continue to shape. Whale challenges us to consider what sustainability really means for us, as individuals, as a community and as a race. This is a significant art work that aligns with our union values, our ongoing commitments to environment action and our respect for student agency.  Whale, is an inspired work that takes pride of place as the AEU’s inaugural prize winner. Thank you, Sam.


Phoebe Gunn, AEU SA

The only work sitting, visually, outside the realm of portraiture in the AEU’s collection this year, is the inaugural winner of the AEU SACE Art Prize, Samuel Greer and his work, Whale. A sculptural juxtaposition of one of the world’s greatest creatures and representations of our environment, fused together with salvaged metallic materials – a stark and beautiful work exemplify the reality of our recyclable world and the connection to environmentalism.

It would be narrow-minded not to consider how this piece may fit within the concept of portraiture – a whale representing the identity of the earth, carrying the enormity of beauty that has evolved in its waters and what must be protected if our planet is to continue to sustain such life. Samuel mentions the significance of living in a coast town in his practitioner’s statement: identity is everywhere and in everything. Whale captures the identity of the earth that sustains us and the identity of its creator.

Serena Williams, Melody Klinger

Melody has created a photorealistic portrait illustration of the iconic Serena Williams, one of, if not the, greatest sportspeople of our generation. Soft, pastel colours juxtapose the personality of the subject matter, who is known for her fierce strength as the greatest sportsperson in recent history – bringing a breath of humanity to a person that has been assailed by the media.

Neutral, brown card surface offers texture that adds warmth to the image, allowing the simple, pencil lines and subtle cross-hatched shading to come to life There is a feeling of innate humanity in this portrait; in a picture of someone lauded for their sporting abilities, and who has used their platform to make statements about race, body positivity and gender equality.

Emotions, Ebony Brown

This quadtych (family of four images) of abstract realism self-portraits conveys emotions of frustration, anxiety, low mood and happiness as experienced by a young adult coming to the end of their schooling experience. Emotions are communicated by colours corresponding with each painting; used effectively to highlight the underlying expression of each portrait.

Ebony has created a self-referential body of work exploring the facets of identity, seeking to convey the raw and real feelings associated with a momentous shift from adolescence to adulthood. She has drawn inspiration from a multitude of artists, viewing each work as a concept in its own rite, ultimately displaying them as a cohesive set.

John Stevens, William Maggs
This is a portrait infused with symbols that seek to transform the work by layering meaning within the imagery. Achieving this level of symbolism is no small feat, requiring an in-depth knowledge of the subject’s personal history, with the added complexity of conceptually tying together each element. William has achieved this seamlessly.

The works presents cultural symbolism overlaying a society that has evolved, moving away from traditional perspectives but still seeking to uphold them in a changed world. Utilising symbols of leadership, love and respect, these representations of South African culture are inherently connected to South Australia through the identity of the subject by phenomenal attention to detail by the artist.

Hidden Figures, Ellyn Cale

An ingenuous concept of a multi-person portrait created through the medium of collage and culminating in a fusion of abstract realism. Ellyn chose nine women who were overlooked in their chosen career fields. Fragmenting their features and experiences before bringing them back together to create a representation of their lived experiences as figures hidden from society by preconceived and illegitimate notions of gender.

The embossed panels, illustrated using charcoal, display different sections of each woman; conveying the historical aspect and emphasising history’s failure to acknowledge the achievements of women. Ellyn brings these women to our attention, highlighting their humanity and pushing toward rectification and exposure of history’s hidden figures.

Kari, Rebner, Kayla Rebner

These self-portraits are steeped in symbolism with an abstract twist highlighted by the use of monochromatic greyscale to emphasise emotional strain and stark contrast. Kayla has repeated symbols and juxtaposed the two cultures of her identity to underpin a metaphysical foray into the contributions of genetics and the social environment that grow an identity.

Collectively, these works confront the darkness that lies in waiting at the intersection of these two cultures: one subjected to the most demeaning and degrading practices of society and the other acting as the perpetrator. The works confront the conflict that arises within the identity of a person carrying inherited trauma but culminates in a celebration of self-identity that, though one may carry such past traumas, it can be overcome and grow beyond the roots of history.

Dad, Lucy Brown
This bold expressionist offering shows a clever use of colour psychology to express qualities of personality in a portrait. It is a contemporary approach to portraiture, moving away from the traditional instinct of realism and leaning into an approach that preference the overall image instead of finite details. It is a sizeable undertaking achieved with self-assurance.

Lucy’s use of complementary colours creates a harmonious and intrepid visual experience, imbuing life into the subject of the portrait. This is emphasised by the non-linear application of line-work, adding momentum and dynamism to the portrait, ultimately creating warmth that emanates from the portrait onto the viewer before it. The essence of the subject has been captured in such a way by the artist that