Brisbane critical care nurse wins People’s Choice

18 June, 2022

Queensland artist and critical care nurse Kirilee West has been announced as the winner of the $2,000 Mandorla Art Award People’s Choice Award by Abbot John Herbert at New Norcia Museum and Art Gallery.

The work, 3.42am, depicts a poignant and touching moment between caregiver and patient in the small hours of the morning. It is a moment very familiar to West who has been a Registered Nurse for the past 13 years. In her Artist Statement about the work, West says there is an almost palpable sense of fatigue and burnout within hospitals right now that feels arid and unending. “I feel it when I walk within the hospital walls. We move together in spaces of care and bear witness to the life and death of those whose care we are entrusted with. We journey together amidst our efforts to find compassion and a sense of healing. And yet it’s in these small moments that I can see that all along, we were standing together, immersed; covered by rivers in the desert.”

Kirilee West in her studio.

Speaking from Brisbane, West says it is such an honour to receive the People’s Choice Award. “This artwork was deeply personal for me to create, and I’m grateful and deeply touched that the work has resonated with others. As a critical care nurse, this kind of image is a daily reality that is often quite difficult to put into words. I’m yet to find any prose that can adequately describe just what this is that we share with each other in such precarious spaces within hospitals. My gratitude for art to conveying the depth and breadth of unspoken words is immense.”

West says the opportunity to meditate on the ‘gentle whisper’ within her nursing and art practice through entering the Mandorla Art Award was a blessing. “Thank you everyone for welcoming me into the beautiful Mandorla community and for making me – and many healthcare workers – feel seen and valued. It is so appreciated.”

The Mandorla Art Award is Australia’s most significant thematic Christian art prize, with a major prize of $25,000 sponsored by St John of God Health Care. The Award this year comprises 41 works, selected from 275 entries from across Australia. All artist’s addressed the 2022 theme: Metamorphosis – a profound or radical change, referenced in Isaiah 43:19: “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”

The People’s Choice Award is sponsored by The Benedictine Community of Holy Trinity Abbey, New Norcia.

A selection of works from the 2022 Mandorla Art Award is on show at New Norcia Museum and Art Gallery until Sunday 3 July, before touring to St John of God Subiaco Hospital from 9 July – 21 August, and St John of God Murdoch Hospital from 27 August – 26 September.