Ngarrindjeri artist Nellie Rankine, of Murray Bridge, wins Country Arts SA's Breaking Ground award

Ngarrindjeri artist Nellie Rankine has scored $10,000 to develop a body of work for a solo art exhibition. 

The Murray Bridge woman won Country Arts SA’s Breaking Ground Visual Arts Professional Development award for 2019. She is the first indigenous winner.

Along with the exhibition funding, Nellie will also receive $5000 to put towards a mentorship with an established artist of their choice.

The announcement was made on Friday July 6 at a SALA launch event, as the exhibition will be part of the 2019 SALA Festival at the Light Square Gallery in Adelaide.

At age 15, Nellie got into the arts by illustrating her local newsletter, Nungas Club, and has since worked on book illustrations, mosaics, carvings and murals in both commissions and community art projects.

These works all come from her culture, including the Dreaming stories which her grandfather Hendle Rankine has shared with her. Nellie hoped to share these stories through printmaking.

“I have always been interested in printmaking and think the patterns I use would work well as block prints,” Nellie said in her application for the award.

“There are a lot of processes, techniques and materials I could try in printmaking and exhibit the results.”

She said she recently received a tape of “stories of the old ways” told by her grandfather; stories of traditional culture and the country where he grew up.

“These stories are really important to me and I would like to develop an exhibition that responds to this recording using the new print-making techniques I’ll be learning. I’d like to create some large works on fabric that draw from his words and smaller works that explore a range of print making techniques,” she said.

Country Arts SA chief executive officer Steve Saffell congratulated Nellie on winning the “coveted” award out of 12 applicants.

“The panel agreed that her application was well articulated; she had a clear vision and was able to demonstrate exactly why now is the right time for her to take on this opportunity,” he said.

“We look forward to seeing the new direction this will take her career and the work she will produce under the mentorship of print-maker and Adelaide College of the Arts lecturer Lorelei Medcalf.”

SALA Festival CEO Penny Griggs looked forward to seeing Nellie’s exhibition.

“The Breaking Ground award is really important – not just because it is for regional artists but it offers an artist the freedom to create work to push and develop their practice and work towards a really ambitious exhibition,” she said.