‘Don’t overthink it’ says 2022 Hornsby Art Prize winner

Thanks to the Hornsby Art Prize, Solomon Karmel-Shann is now taking a new direction in his work, but initially it was just about the motivation to finish a painting.
Painting of a young man's face in close crop. In the background is a winding path in the midst of a yellow field.

‘When I’m creating a picture, I don’t like to contain the paintings; I allow them to tell me what they
want, to lead me down paths they want to go,’ Solomon Karmel-Shann tells ArtsHub. Last year, his
painting The Whispering Flag won the Hornsby Art Prize and he says, ‘It still feels a little surreal that
the judges picked my painting.’

In Karmel-Shann’s words, the self-portrait embodied ‘feelings of conflict, indecision, contemplation,
and emotions that I can’t fully grasp or articulate…

‘These emotions often seem to present themselves in my paintings and it’s something I’m really
drawn to.’

Entering art prizes has always been on the artist’s bucket list, and the Hornsby Art Prize provided a
level playing field for artistic recognition, regardless of career status and location in Australia.

Since winning, Karmel-Shann has been able to invest more time and money into his paintings, while
experimenting with techniques outside of traditional realism – ‘despite 10 grand worth of positive
reinforcement [to follow that path],’ he says.

In 2023, the Prize returns with the major $10,000 non-acquisitive award, organised by Hornsby Shire
Council and delivered in partnership with the Hornsby Art Society.

There are five medium-based category awards (Painting, Drawing, Printmaking, Digital Art Stills and
Sculpture), alongside the $5000 Hornsby Shire Local Artist Award and $500 People’s Choice Award.
Karmel-Shann says art prizes are useful for structuring your practice, with clear goals and
deadlines to work towards. He adds: ‘My manager also gives me structure and deadlines, but since
she’s also my mother it does allow me to take full advantage of my puppy dog eyes and convince her
to postpone a deadline – my puppy dog eyes don’t work as well on judges of prizes.’

The artist continues: ‘There’s really nothing to lose, and only things to gain by entering the prize,
whether that be just creating something to submit, being a finalist and having your work exhibited,
or for someone to see it in the gallery and connect with it – or potentially winning, you never know!

‘Something else I’ve discovered is how winning the prize made me feel even more connected with
my own painting. It didn’t make me content, but rather inspired me to keep going and reinforced
this desire I have to push my paintings.’

He advises potential entrants to ‘not overthink it or have expectations, but use it as an opportunity to
finish another painting and get your work out there’.

Entries are now open for the Hornsby Art Prize and close on 5 September, so there is plenty of
time to create a new work or enter an existing one.

The Hornsby Art Prize Finalists’ Exhibition will be held at Wallarobba Arts and Cultural Centre,
Hornsby, from 20 October until 5 November 2023.

Celina Lei is an arts writer and editor at ArtsHub. She acquired her M.A in Art, Law and Business in New York with a B.A. in Art History and Philosophy from the University of Melbourne. She has previously worked across global art hubs in Beijing, Hong Kong and New York in both the commercial art sector and art criticism. She took part in drafting NAVA’s revised Code of Practice - Art Fairs and was the project manager of ArtsHub’s diverse writers initiative, Amplify Collective. Celina is based in Naarm/Melbourne. Instagram @lleizy_