RMIT alumnus Natasha Bieniek has won the prestigious $50,000 Wynne Prize for her miniature landscape painting.
Bieniek is only the 10th woman to receive the award since it was established in 1897, winning the prestigious prize for a painting measuring just 9x9 centimetres, titled Biophilia.
“I feel incredibly honoured to be awarded such a historically significant prize,” she said.
“This year there were many potential winners and it’s a privilege to have my work hanging alongside such immense talent.”
The Wynne Prize is awarded annually by the trustees of the Art Gallery of NSW for the best landscape painting of Australian scenery in oils or watercolours or for the best example of figure sculpture by Australian artists.
Bieniek, who completed her Graduate Diploma in Arts Management at RMIT in 2008, was inspired by a recent fascination with the concept of biophilia, the scientific study that examines human responses to the natural world.
In particular, she wanted her miniature landscapes to explore the idea that nature was integral to psychological and physical development.
“My miniature landscapes depict environments that are situated within walking distance from Melbourne’s CBD,” she said.
“These diverse pockets of nature offer a sense of tranquillity amid the chaos of a developed major city.
“My intention is to present the idea that we, as humans, are not above nature, but are very much a part of it.”
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Emeritus Professor Martin Comte, who taught Bieniek in her Community Arts Management course at RMIT, was delighted but not surprised to hear of her win.
“Her miniatures have to be seen to be believed – they’re brilliant!” he said.
Bieniek began painting on a miniature scale in 2010, in order to test the limits of oil painting and to create a more intimate relationship with the viewer.
“Because my paintings are so small, there’s no other option but to get right up close to view them accurately. My aim is to create a one-on-one relationship with the viewer,” she said.
Bieniek believes her time at RMIT helped her to comprehend the importance of art and the effect it can have on local communities.
“The program encouraged me to deeply investigate Australia’s artistic scene from not only the perspective of an artist, but also from an administrative and curatorial viewpoint,” she said.
“This kind of knowledge across many aspects of the industry is extremely advantageous.”
Professor David Forrest, Program Manager of RMIT’s Masters of Arts (Arts Management), said the program provided students with facilitated links to a broad range of industry partners.
“Students are given opportunities to develop their areas of focus or practice that will enhance their careers,” he said.
Bieniek is currently preparing for her next solo exhibition at the Sydney Contemporary Art Fair in September, including 14 recent miniature paintings and featuring both landscape and figurative works.
She has also been shortlisted for the Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship, administered by the Art Gallery of NSW, which consists of a three-month residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris.
Story: Emma Morgan