Thursday, April 28th, 2016

Congratulations to Owen Leong on being selected as one of the winners of the 2016 MAMA Art Foundation National Photography Prize at the Murray Art Museum Albury.

This is the first MAMA Art Foundation National Photography Prize to be held since 2010 and will be one of the highlight exhibitions since the reopening of MAMA in October 2015. 

First established in 1983, the MAMA Art Foundation National Photography Prize is a biennial acquisitive awards and exhibition, showcasing the best in contemporary Australian photography.

To celebrate the growing interest in photography, MAMA, through the MAMA Art Foundation, now offers a major acquisitive cash prize pool of $50,000 including the $3,000 John & Margaret Baker Memorial Fellowship for an emerging artist.

Owen Leong was selected as a finalist for two of his photographic works Aura, and also Milkteeth, which was acquired as one of the winning works.

“Aura visualises the human circulatory system as an external shadow. This work is inspired by A.J. Defehrt’s 18th century engraving of the blood circulatory system, which has been cut from the soft black leather pelt of an animal. The act of hand cutting leather traces the passage of blood as it circles the body. The webbed veins of the circulatory system are then draped over my body like a second skin. A surgical stainless steel device holds my mouth open, which symbolically silences while opening up the body as a passive receptacle. This device suggests medicalisation of the body, hierarchies of classification and power. Aura attempts to make visible the transmission of social, cultural and political forces across the body.”

Owen Leong, Aura, 2014, C Type print

Owen Leong_Aura_2014_archival pigment print on cotton paper_120 x 90cm_edition of 5 + 2 AP


Owen Leong_Milkteeth_2014_archival pigment print on cotton paper_120 x 120cm_edition of 5 + 2 AP

“In Chinese culture, the pearl is said to allow an individual to become more open, to find the meaning and purpose of one’s true self. For the Chinese, pearl powder is also used as a cosmetic skin whitener. The formation of a pearl inside a pearl oyster occurs because of the presence of foreign material inside the body of the oyster. To save itself from this foreign material, the mollusc coats the object with many layers of nacre, which become the pearl. This self-portrait titled Milkteeth, imagines the shedding of whiteness from inside my body, where each particle of whiteness has been used to mask the external body. Here I have shed my milk teeth, or ‘pearly whites’, and through accretion have formed an iridescent white hood. There is a strange labour in the construction of this talisman. The mask disguises and transforms the wearer, but does it bestow the power to find one’s true self?”

Owen Leong, Artist Statement.

The exhibition of finalists can be seen from 21 May – 7 August 2016, with the winner of the MAMA Art Foundation National Photography Prize announced on Friday 20th May, 2016.