Christ's College Art Prize 2021 - Touch
It is a great pleasure to announce the winners of the 2021 Christ’s College Art Prize. The su
bject this year was ‘Touch’. This not only gave everyone in College a chance to reflect on the isolation and separation of living through a pandemic; it also had them reflect on the importance of family and friendships, as well as the on the tiny joys that not even Covid could devastate. The theme was chosen to chime with the Fitzwilliam Museum’s ongoing exhibition, ‘The Human Touch: Making Art, Leaving Traces’, which closes in August. The work submitted is both beautiful and extremely moving.
The winner is Ziyi Zhu, who is a third-year Engineering student. Ziyi’s entry is an oil painting that is as affecting as it is exquisite. Ziyi writes: ‘This artwork explores the unfulfilled desire for physical interaction in the time of a global pandemic. Being isolated from families and social networks, the disillusioned people in the society can only find comfort in inanimate objects and seek refuge in solitude. The lack of emotions which were essential aspects of human interaction resulted in a loss of social identity and blurred the boundary between inner and outer personality.’
The runner-up’s prize goes to Eve Oostendorp, a third-year PBS student. Her trilogy of glass-paintings enchanted the committee for their beauty, wit and scale, with everyone as delighted by the concept as by being able to hold the little objects in their hands. Eve writes: ‘Touch for me is hugs. This time, for me, is absence of hugs. I have been in Cambridge for months now, meeting a few friends sporadically, but otherwise, quite on my own. Video calls have kept me going . . . I started screenshotting (with permission) my friends and family. Such candid snapshots of faces I know so well. They are different from real life conversations, in that, among others, I get to look up their noses! I started drawing these images. It was meditative. It was weirdly emotional, reproducing them here in my room in the quiet of this place that is not that place. The act of drawing out the contours, it is something of a conjuring to life . . . My favourite shot was of my dad and sister smiling, looking away. I wanted to reproduce it, with my own image on the other end of the line. I wanted to portray that, although the calls are great, . . . at the end of the call, it is me in the room and a switched off device . . Using different mark-making within the frame of the glass, I felt like I was creating a microcosm (or even: fungal art in a petri dish) . . . I am hoping the work can be consoling. The idea that there are others on the other side of the phone. The smiling, the staring . . .’
Eve Oostendorp, Untitled, Three panels, each glass, paint and acrylic marker, 10cm x 15cm
The Committee also commends the work of Annabel Adams. Her oil painting is again poignant with a delicacy that no photograph can capture. She writes, ‘I was inspired by the idea of the 'new normal' being somebody's first experience. Iattempted to specifically relate this to 'touch' by trying to convey as many different textures as possible in a scene of a new-born beginning to perceive its surroundings held securely by a nurse covered in PPE. I also wanted it to be my own small tribute to the essential workers who have kept working throughout lockdown and thanks to their efforts despite the pandemic, life goes on.’
Thanks to everyone who contributed, to the members of the College’s Visual Arts Committee who did the judging, and to Martin Johnson for the generous donation that makes this annual prize possible.
Caroline Vout (Chair of the Visual Arts Committee)