It’s not often one of our own is celebrated on the national stage but Canberra born painter and colourist Sacha Pola has managed to turn heads. Having studied at the School of Art at ANU and graduating (with honours) in print media, art history and French, Pola was announced last week as one of the finalists in the prestigious awards!

When asked what motivated him to enter the Muswellbrook Artist Prize, Pola says “I applied because someone came along and gave me the confidence to realise I was ready.”

As an artist, Pola is inspired by names like David Hockney, RB Kitaj, Michael Armitage, Marlene Dumas, Kara Walker, William Kentridge and Adrian Ghenie. Adding, that his study of art history has also greatly informed his work.

“My practice traces the narrative and visual traditions of the canon of art history. It combines the Classicism and Neo-Classicism of Western Europe with the anthropomorphism of East Asian spiritual and visual traditions, coincidentally playing with notions of divinity that are as fundamental as they are vague. Within the vast pool of 20th century explorations in colour and form, the vitality of Neo-Expressionism and the bold restraint of Pop Art are among my closest diving partners.”

The evocative title of his entry piece, Having Reached Utopia, it was Then Time, suggests a tragic story about human nature – our tendency to not appreciate being in the present, even if it is idyllic, because we are constantly pursuing future satisfaction. This narrative element adds an allegorical and poignant quality to the blissful setting.

The Muswellbrook Art prize has come a long way since its beginnings in 1958, as the Festival of the Valley Art Prize. Now offering $71,000 in prize money across four categories, including a $50,000 painting prize, $10,000 ceramics prize, $10,000 works on paper prize and $1000 “People’s Choice” prize.

Previous winners of the prize include such key figures as David Aspden, Sydney Ball, Richard Larter and Fred Williams. The Upper Hunter region is also well represented with local artists who have won the prize including Peter Atkins, Dale Frank, Lyn Nash and Hanna Kay.

The winning finalists exhibition will be held 10 March to 5 May 2019 at Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre. We wish Sacha all the best!

For more on the artist see below.