With his portrait of rapper Tkay Maidza, emerging artist Angus Hamra is this year’s winner of the $25,000 Kennedy Prize, an Adelaide-based annual art prize and exhibition open to artists from across the country.
The annual Kennedy Prize was the creation of the late Bob Kennedy, a company director and philanthropist who passed away earlier this year. Now in its fifth year, the prize and exhibition honours the businessman’s legacy with his son Mark the creative director of the national art prize. This year, the Kennedy Prize received 317 entrants, which were cut down to 55 finalists, with the finalist works on show at the Royal South Australian Society of the Arts on North Terrace in September.
This year’s winner is local artist Angus Hamra, who is currently studying in Melbourne, and his striking portrait of Adelaide rapper and singer Tkay Maidza. Maidza is one of the country’s most popular MCs, thanks to hits such as Brontosaurus and MOB, and has collaborated with international acts such as Atlanta’s Killer Mike (of Run the Jewels fame) and France’s Martin Solveig. Hamra studied architecture with Maidza and had wanted to paint the musical artist for some while.
“She was making music when we were studying and she always had this strong presence, I realised she would be an interesting subject when I started hearing her music, to be honest,” Hamra says. “Her music embodies what she’s about: she’s very optimistic and energetic and visually you can see that in her presence.”
Even though Hamra, who is now studying a Master of Contemporary Art at the University of Melbourne, had wanted to paint Maidza for a while, it wasn’t until later that he brought this idea to the vocalist.
“I actually had the idea for it a few years ago but because Tkay’s been so busy, she was rarely back in Adelaide, it was just a matter of really trying to work out when a good time for her would be. She was really generous with her time and had a lot of faith in the decisions I made for the work.”
The sitting for the portrait was held in the gallery of Hamra’s art dealer, Peter Walker in Melbourne.
“We went to his gallery and did a whole series of photos and sketches, probably went for a few hours, and she was really playful which made it really relaxing. She didn’t take herself too seriously. She gave me a lot of different shots to work with.”
Maidza and Hamra have been in contact after his win with the artist planning to catch up with his subject on the weekend of this interview as she was about to play a gig in Melbourne.
Next, Hamra wants to travel and apply for residencies as “this prize would really assist in fulfilling” those dreams.
“I don’t want to plan too far ahead, at the moment I’m really concerned about developing as an artist and getting the most out of university that I can.”
*The author was one of the Kennedy Prize judges.