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"Objectify" - what does it mean? Last night at the launch event of the "Objectify" exhibition at Watt Space Gallery, I saw many different interpretations of and plays on the word. The object of objectification was announced back in June as being cocktail umbrellas, an item selected for its fun, playful connotations to inspire all creatives, no matter their field.

The theme was an experimental element proposed by Amber Shipard, Danielle Marrett, Kylie Moore, and Sam Chant, after consultation with the University of Newcastle's Art Curator, Gillian Shaw, about a similar project they were wanting to curate. Shaw then offered the team the opportunity to curate this year's Student Art Prize, blending the traditional format with their idea of work focalising around a common theme: an object.

Prize Winner Annika Thurbon

The judges of the Prize this year was artist Brett Piva (Pocket Design / Onwards Studios) and photographer Lee Illfield (Lee Illfield Photography), local creatives known to the curatorial team. The launch yesterday evening was also the announcement of the prize winners, with artist Annika Thurbon winning first place for her sandstone piece "Cock Tail" (2019).

It was interesting to see the various interpretations and mediums selected by artists in relation to the theme. Some pieces were quite literal, while others embraced the concept more figuratively. Raven Law's "Martini Bar" (2019) was a stunning animation featuring several cocktail glasses 'lined up in a row' that twinkled whilst the little cocktail umbrellas twirled. Ksenia Wells's acrylic on canvas, "Dipping into the Glam" (2019), was also a gorgeous and vibrant piece I loved.

Rachel Bergquist's "Neon" (2019)

Rachel Bergquist's "Neon" (2019) explored the paper umbrellas in a literal sense through experimentation with digital photography, generating several vibrant, playful images. Holly Marlin's "A Break From Reality" (2019) similarly portrayed these fun, playful vibes in her photomedia piece - a work of vibrant colours used to simulate an altered visual state, such as when one has become too intoxicated.

Prize winner, Skye Dixon, in their work"Blue Monday" (2019), used the object as a source of inspiration to examine light filtration through translucent paper via photography. Meanwhile, Noah Cornale's "Unknown Dimensions" (2019) prints were quite extraordinary. Though seemingly unrelated to the theme, their artwork consisted of blending images of a surfer above and beneath the ocean taken around sunset. This piece played with lighting and tone beautifully, subtly acknowledging the theme.

My work, "Drink Darling, Good Vibes Await Those Who Are Brave" (2019)

Like Cornale, artist Rachel Klyve broke the 'literal' theme in her piece "Pulp" (2019). Klyve, another prize winner of the night, chose to use the opportunity to address issues cocktail umbrellas as an issue focusing on deforestation and other environmental impacts that are created via the novelty product's production process. Michaela Swan's "Cock Tale Piece" (2019) similarly was enchanting for its relation to objectification in a sense of discomfort, along with its interactive element of allowing the audience to contribute their own experience to the work through a journal (later intended by the artist to be added to the larger scale artwork).

My own work in the exhibition, titled "Drink Darling, Good Vibes Await Those Who Are Brave" (2019), is an experimental short-fiction piece that explores the concept of the theme through a blend of literal and figurative interpretations of the theme. Truthfully, I was uninspired to write anything until it neared submission deadline, and it was only with the encouragement of my friend that I finally knuckled down and wrote this piece that I am extremely proud to have created.

Overall the evening was a blast, and the artworks are spectacular. Go along and check it out. The exhibition will be open until 29 September 2019.

Holly Marlin's "A Break From Reality" (2019) (in background)

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