South Africa's most prestigious art award, the ABSA L’Atelier Art Awards pays homage to both established and emerging young local artists and their compelling artistic vision. The 2011 ABSA L’Atelier Award Winners, announced in July 2011, includes Ian Grose, the overall winner, and Isabel Mertz, who was awarded the 2011 Gerard Sekoto Award for the most promising artist with an income of less than R60 000 per annum. Grose and Mertz were chosen as the first and Gerard Sekoto winners respectively out of 78 finalists. Mertz also earned herself a Merit Award.
Mertz’s highly praised mixed media piece, Anthropomorphic Spaces III (above), represents South Africa’s inner cities, using maps of the country combined with the artist’s own interpretation of these spaces. The piece comprises panels created out of cast Lego pieces made from a wax and cement mixture. While cement is an inherently strong material, by mixing it with melted wax instead of water, the Lego pieces become delicate, fragile and can easily be distorted. This reflects the constant transformation one finds in cities.
As part of her prize, Mertz wins a three-month artistic residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts de Paris, allowing her to explore a new artistic scene and create an exhibition which will tour within the French cultural network in Southern Africa.
With the support of the French Institute of South Africa in collaboration with ABSA, SANAVA, the Embassy of France in South Africa and the French cultural network of Alliances Françaises in Southern Africa.
Previous ABSA L’Atelier Gerard Sekoto Prize Winners include: 2010 Bongumenzi NGOBESE; 2009 Nyaniso LINDI; 2008 Retha FERGUSON; 2007 Nina BARNETT; 2006 Nomusa MAKHUBU; 2005 Lawrence LEMOANA; 2004 Billie ZANGEWA.