Sculptural painter and video artist Miranda Parkes is the 2013 recipient of the Olivia Spencer Bower Foundation Art Award, which is bestowed each year on an emerging painter or sculptor with significant potential.
The leading trustee company Guardian Trust manages the awards process and distribution of the $30,000 prize, which is paid in monthly instalments over a year to cover the living costs of the winner while they pursue their work, with total freedom.
Miranda Parkes graduated with an MFA from the Canterbury University's Ilam School of Fine Arts in 2005. As a contemporary artist blending painting and sculpture, Parkes has been described as "exploring the languages of abstraction while making dynamic work that is not bound to its conventions" and as an artist whose work "mischievously acknowledge[s] a modernist heritage whose occasionally sombre ideologies are invigorated by her post-modern response to international abstraction."
The financial assistance offered by the Olivia Spencer Bower Foundation, which funds the awards, has helped foster the careers of many important New Zealand artists since the first award was presented in 1987. Recent winners have included Robert Hood, Eddie Clemens, Claire Noonan, Cat Auburn, Georgie Hill and Laura Marsh.
Guardian Trust general manager of personal client services Philip Morgan Rees says the Olivia Spencer Bower Foundation art awards set an example for other philanthropists interested in bestowing their legacy through a trust, for the benefit of the arts.
"Olivia Spencer Bower said she would have benefited from such an awards programme, and set out to establish the trust with specific requirements for people with similar aspirations to hers. One of the most valuable gifts an artist can receive is time, and the money gifted through the Olivia Spencer Bower Foundation Art Award gives the winner a period of absolute freedom from the need to seek outside employment, and a rare opportunity, as an emerging artist, to devote themselves unrestricted in any way to their work."
Olivia Spencer Bower is remembered as a remarkable artist. Her watercolours of the South Island remain among the nation's most recognised and admired works of art. She was also very competent in drawing, abstract and portraiture art, working in oils and acrylics.
The Olivia Spencer Bower Foundation was created as a reflection of Olivia's own experiences as a female artist in New Zealand. Unable to dedicate a substantial amount of time to her art, Olivia was keen to assist promising young artists by giving them the opportunity to focus solely on being creative for a full year.
Indeed, Olivia spent much of her life discovering and promoting new artists. She was a member of the pioneering 'The Group' for its entirety (1927-1977) promoting artists at a time where there were no dealer galleries in Canterbury. Her passion for fostering creativity and supporting new artists continued when just a few years after the 'The Group' disbanded, the first Olivia Spencer Bower Foundation art award was presented.
Applications are called for by Guardian Trust biannually and are reviewed by a selection panel of independent judges. The next selection will take place in mid-2014.