A love of art and culture continues on by talented graduates

03/05/2023 | 3 mins

In its 32nd year, the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA) will celebrate emerging artists across Australia at the annual Hatched: National Graduate Show this month.

Showcasing the work of recent Australian art school graduates, three exhibiting entrants will receive one of the prestigious Schenberg Awards, which were established 14 years ago through the bequest of the late Dr Harold Schenberg. These awards are presented in partnership with The University of Western Australia and PICA. 

This year, emerging artist and UWA graduate, Agatha Okon (BSc ‘22), has been selected to exhibit in Hatched. 

Ms Okon graduated with majors in both chemistry and fine arts, and is now studying graphic design at TAFE to build upon and gain greater expertise on digital works, while continuing to make artworks.

"From a young age I've always been interested in the arts to express myself and create for my own entertainment," Ms Okon said.

Image: Agatha Okon, Bad Sector, 2021.
Agatha Okon artwork 

“From a young age I’ve always been interested in the arts to express myself and create for my own entertainment,” Ms Okon said.

“When I was very young, I had speaking and writing difficulties, and so I likely latched onto art as a means of communication.” 

With a formative interest in science, Ms Okon sees art as an important way to explore and convey topics that are outside of conventional science and communication, as a means to understand the world and each other better.

Her art process consists of attempts to unify branches of philosophical theory and science, so that both can complement and expand on one another to form a more cohesive understanding of the world.

“Primarily, I am focused on the union of quantum mechanics and metaphysics, but also dabbling in our relationship to other non-human organisms and biology,” Ms Okon said.

“I deconstruct concepts of objectivity and subjectivity, both in the literal scientific sense of what makes objects and the universe ‘exist’, and also in the more philosophical meanings of these terms.

“I then explore what separates one from the other, how the accepted ideas of these concepts in societies informs our thoughts and actions, and where these ideas may fail and need to be adapted to fit current circumstances.” 

Ms Okon’s artwork for the Hatched exhibition this month, will be two works titled Outside of truth and Self-portrait with fruit.

“Outside of truth consists of a 3D virtual gallery animation, mapped to the existing UWA Cullity gallery, and pom poms made of shredded scrap paper,” Ms Okon said. 

“Self-portrait with fruit is made from the precipitated DNA of myself and some fruits. 

“In both works, the principal medium is information, in the forms of digital data, paper, and DNA.

“Utilising data collection methodology, such as DNA extraction and photogrammetry, subjects both alive and unalive are converted into pure information.

“This results in distorted and incomplete results. The complexity of the subjects is stripped away and collapsed into a static replica, resulting in informatic ‘residues’.

“The residues, and the contrast to their original sources, challenges and debases the authority of information as objective representations of reality. 

“In doing so, the works promote discussion on information usage in the age of obsession with analytics. 

“The informatic residues of individuals, constructed from data such as DNA or personal details, are regarded as equivalent and even superior to an individual.”

Along with the 26 selected entrants at this month’s show, Ms Okon’s emerging art career could potentially be awarded with significant investment towards the development of her art practice.

The Schenberg Awards represent the largest prize to be awarded for emerging artists in Australia and comprise of the Dr Harold Schenberg Art Fellowship ($35,000), the Schenberg Art High Commendation ($10,000) and the Schenberg Art Commendation ($5,000).

Curating an extensive art collection, Dr Schenberg was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letters in 2000 by UWA in recognition of his significant contributions to the Arts. Living on through his generous bequest, Dr Schenberg's love of art and culture is continued by the talented Hatched awardees and entrants.

 Image: Dr Harold Schenberg, UWA Cultural Precinct archives.
Schenberg portrait 

Entry to PICA and the exhibition is free. Hatched: National Graduate Show 2023 opening night is on Friday 12 May. The exhibition runs until 23 July.

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