Young Alumna’s art challenging and enriching

06-Mar-2018 9:12 AM

Artist Luke Willis Thompson’s widely acclaimed artworks are moving and challenging – emotionally, politically and aesthetically. They have featured among other things, his family home, Fijian gravestones and more recently, the widow of a man killed by police

Next week, the graduate from Elam School of Fine Arts, who has a Master of Fine Arts (First Class Honours), will receive the University of Auckland’s 2018 Young Alumna of the Year award, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the arts.

Luke previously won New Zealand’s largest art award in 2014, the Walters Prize, with a work that featured his family’s suburban home.

Entitled inthisholeonthisislandwhereiam, viewers were taken by taxi from an inner city gallery and allowed to wander round and freely explore the artist’s house presented like a contemporary artefact. At just 25, Luke was the award’s youngest recipient.

Currently based in London, the Fijian-New Zealand artist was recently one of four international practitioners shortlisted for the 2018 Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize, for his work Autoportrait.

Worth £30,000, the award is given annually to a living artist of any nationality who has made the most significant contribution, either through an exhibition, or publication, to photography in Europe in the previous year.

Autoportrait, made in collaboration with Diamond Reynolds, whose partner Philando Castile was shot dead by police during a traffic stop in Minnesota, consists of a silent film featuring Diamond. Literally a moving portrait, the work is imbued with a mix of classical beauty and quiet activism.

Elam School of Fine Arts Head of School, Assoc Prof Peter Shand says “My colleagues and I are thrilled Luke’s already significant contribution to the international art world is being celebrated by the University. His work is a resonant distillation of sharp political insight and profound emotional intensity realised with an astonishing degree of conceptual and material acuity. I have followed his success very closely and my experience of his projects here and overseas are amongst the most enriching and challenging of my life. As his career moves form strength to strength it is with unabashed pride that we count him as an alumnus of Elam and the University of Auckland. He embodies the value and critical importance of creative education and his work helps us all understand better what it means to live in the world.”

Luke’s first large-scale solo exhibition in New Zealand is currently showing at the Adam Art Gallery in Wellington as part of the 2018 New Zealand Festival.

For more information about the Distinguished Alumni Awards visit

Miranda Playfair | Media Relations Adviser
The University of Auckland
Tel: + 64 (0)21 063 8393

Topic: News & Media

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