Interview with Siân Stephens - winner of the 2022 Parkin Prize for Liam Cutting His Hair After An All-nighter


What are you doing now?

I’m actually living in South London! Liam (whose hair is a little longer than most would remember, perhaps it needs another spontaneous cut?) and I made the decision to move over in December last year, we had been really wanting to be brave and try living and making work in a totally new environment, and it felt like the right time. We’re also now engaged! I proposed to Liam on Christmas Day, and we couldn’t be happier. I’m currently working on a new series, a body of work consisting of large paintings and video works unpacking the intimate and gloriously ordinary mundane moments of a domestic life shared between two people, who now have no choice but to spend all their time together. I’m very excited to submit proposals to London galleries, and see where this journey takes us both. Liam is also making work, we’re sharing our small living quarters with a gigantic Fender Rumble 150 bass amp and a menagerie of pedals, and he’s very excited to start a new audio technician position for a global company.

How did your Parkin win help you and your career?

The Parkin Drawing Prize win was a completely life-changing experience for m, and it quite literally enabled me to move across the world to further my artistic career. The financial support that came with the prize money was instrumental to this, but also the confidence the win and the process around it gave me was unbelievable, and without it I’m not sure I would have been able to make such a decision. Having your artwork, pieces you pour yourself into completely for years, finally be recognized and celebrated on a large scale was such a fantastic feeling. It was also a wonderful opportunity to sell a small run of limited prints of the work to family and friends, people who have always supported me and my work. Being able to have them share in the excitement by having a print with them in their home was a lovely experience, and made the enjoyment of the win carry on even longer. Also, being recognized at a gig and in the office as the Parkin winner did make me feel pretty wicked.

Why would you encourage artists to enter this prize?

I absolutely urge any artists tossing up the idea of entering, to go for it 100%. I entered having really enjoyed the provocation to make work, having a time limit and a brief to work within is a formula I personally find helps me get motivated, but truthfully I thought there was such a slim chance my work would even get short listed. New Zealand is absolutely filled with incredible and talented artists and makers, which is perhaps in this context somewhat daunting, but someone is going to win, and that someone could well be you! The team involved with the Parkin Prize were so kind and so fun to work with, and made the experience one of the most fun and exciting moments of my life, and I’ll remember it and treasure it forever.

What did you end up spending your money on?

Siân Stephens Liam Cutting His Hair After An All Nighter

Well, goodness me, quite a mad array of things really! The biggest expense was getting over to London and settling in, but it has also allowed me once here to join the National Gallery members foundation, and I utilize it heavily by taking Liam to see every corner of it at least once a fortnight. I also was able to purchase several original works from my dear friends Robbie Motion and Ben Lysaght, whose work I have admired for years, and support my best friend’s up-and-coming business Good Fortune Collective. Some of it went back into MEANWHILE, the gallery I’ve been very fortunate to work with for several years, including helping to set up our enormous Telethon Fundraiser, and support the book launch of Territory Unknown by Simon L Wong and Chyna Lily. I can’t deny I also treated Liam and I to many a brunch, and paid off some pesky bills. But most importantly, it’s given me the security and the agency to prioritize my painting and art making practice, which is the best gift I could ever hope for.

Anything else you would like to add?

Just an enormous thank you to everyone who supported and encouraged me throughout this whole amazing experience, I wish I could go back and do it all again (and wear a better outfit for the media interviews... what was I thinking?!). People like Chris Parkin and the team at the NZAFA are doing such great work by supporting drawing practice, so even if you’re not an artist yourself and don’t plan to enter, I would encourage you to keep an eye out for the next run of Parkin Drawing Prize entries, and take a look at the shortlisted works! Support the arts and become involved, because this award is an absolute dream come true and needs to keep going for many years to come.

Interview with Siân Stephens - winner of the 2022 Parkin Prize for Liam Cutting His Hair After An All-nighter

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