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Connecting with the earth by walking barefoot in nature


Artist Presten Warren is feeling on top of the world after winning a slew of awards for his paintings this year.

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Named this week as the People’s Choice award winner in the Port Augusta 2023 Malka Aboriginal Art Prize, the 2023 Port Lincoln Naidoc Youth Person of the Year, and winner of the BHP Carrapateena PPE Art Competition, there is no stopping the 23-year-old who has his career sights now firmly set.

Warren’s recent success comes on the back of seeing some of his commissioned artworks safely delivered to the United States, hanging on the wall with a proud connection to the South Australian outback.

He has more commissioned pieces on the way to an American multinational infrastructure firm, has been selected as one of eight artists to travel to Darwin for the Ku Arts Aboriginal Art Fair, and even has his artwork printed on Indian sarees.

With momentum building, Warren took the leap into full-time art in September 2022, opening his Painted Studios business from his home base in Port Lincoln.

Malka Aboriginal Art Prize

Presten Warren with his People’s Choice award-winning entry, ‘Munda’, at the 2023 Malka Aboriginal Art Prize in Port Augusta.

A Dieri, Arabana, Kokotha, Mirning and Wirangu man, who grew up in Ceduna, Warren said it was his late grandmother, Paulette Miller, who inspired him to tell his story through art.

“Art means so much to me because personally, no one is really carrying on the tradition that my Nana had when she was alive,” he said.

“She used to paint heaps, and no one in my family really still does that so it’s just an honour to be able to keep the tradition alive and tell stories through my art.

“All the signs and symbols that I use were learned from her.

“I remember being about five years old, sitting at the dining room table with my Nana, watching her paint and she would ask me to help her mix the paint.

“It was there, at a very young age, that I learned how to mix colours to match the landscape.”

Warren was one of 48 established and emerging indigenous artists to showcase their work in the 2023 Malka Aboriginal Art Prize Awards at the Yarta Purtli Art Gallery and Barracks at his birthplace, Port Augusta.

Now in its 14th year, the annual art prize was the brainchild of Marvin McKenzie Senior, and aims to provide a dedicated space for the Aboriginal artists to exhibit their work.

Malka, meaning ‘mark’ or ‘painting’, has established itself as a prestigious art prize and this year attracted entries from the Far North, Mid North and Eyre Peninsula, with a $20,000 grand prize offered.

Ceduna artist Janine Gray was announced the 2023 winner of the Malka Aboriginal Art Prize and the Elder category award, with her artwork titled ‘Skeletal Fish’, inspired by her love of fishing and the vibrant and changing ocean environment.

Warren’s People’s Choice award-winning entry, “Munda”, represented the concept of connecting with the earth by walking barefoot in nature.

“Munda means dirt or ground,” he said.

“My story just speaks about how we can benefit off the land and the ground, how we use it to cook in the ground and live off the ground.

“There were some really incredible artists in the Mulka Aboriginal Art Prize this year, and just to be able to exhibit alongside some artists who have been painting for a lot longer than me just makes me really happy.

“It is a really big opportunity to show my work and put myself out there.”

Talented young artist Kaysharne Coleman, Port Lincoln High School, was named Youth Award winner, with her painting titled ‘Family’, showing connection with family and their travels to reunite with one another.

Malka 2023 is open at the Yarta Purtli Art Gallery, 6 Beauchamp Lane, Port Augusta, until Saturday, July 15.

Presten will also have work on show at Peter Teakle Wines in Port Lincoln, for a month from July 11.

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