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May 26, 2023

Ida Sophia wins 2023 Ramsay Art Prize

South Australian performance, sculpture and installation artist, Ida Sophia has won the $100,000 prize, awarded to artists under 40, for her video work 'Witness'.

  • Words: Johnny von Einem
  • Pictures: Samuel Graves

Hybrid media performance, sculpture and installation artist Ida Sophia has been named the winner of the $100,000 Ramsay Art Prize at an event at the Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA) this morning.


Ramsay Art Prize 2023 Exhibition
26 May—27 August
Art Gallery of South Australia
North Terrace, Adelaide 5000
More info

Ida’s winning work, ‘Witness’, was commended by AGSA director Rhana Devenport as “technically and conceptually resolved, capturing the breadth of her practice to this point”.

“The Ramsay Art Prize sets out to elevate and accelerate careers for contemporary Australian artists,” says Rhana. “Ida Sophia is clearly at a pivotal point in her career.”

‘Witness’ is a performance-for-video work which shows Ida continuously submerged in the Pool of Siloam, a salt lake in Wirmalngrang Beachport. The submersions are a reference and response to Ida’s memory of her father’s baptism.

“It is inspired by an experience I had witnessing my father’s baptism when I was seven,” Ida tells CityMag.

“At that time, I felt that I had lost my position as being his favourite to Christ, and in my vain hope of trying to win that back, I performed a faux-religiosity – praying and going to church, reading and going to bible camp – and this was all in hopes that I would regain this position that I had perceived that I had lost.

“Even though I knew I wasn’t religious, even though I knew that this wouldn’t change anything, I did it anyway. And so the work is talking about these actions that we take every day, that are seemingly innocuous, but actually put up an ironic barrier to the thing that we really do want.

“So this work is about vain hope and addressing how that plays out in our lives.”

Ida mid-performance in the Pool of Siloam. This picture: Thomas McCammon


Ida was nominated alongside 27 other artists from around the country, including South Australians Sundari Carmody, Zaachariaha Fielding and Alfred Lowe.

The interstate finalists are:
Abdul Abdullah (NSW), Carla Adams (WA), Badra Aji (VIC), Tom Blake (NSW/WA), Yuriyal Eric Bridgeman (QLD), Emma Buswell (WA), Jacobus Capone (WA), Corban Clause Williams (WA), Henry Curchod (NSW), Sarah Drinan (NT), Aidan Gageler (NSW), Olive Gill-Hille (WA), Pascale Giorgi (WA), Nadia Hernández (VIC), Alana Hunt (WA/NSW), Gian Manik (VIC), Daniel McKewen (QLD), Amy Perejuan-Capone (WA), Alison Puruntatameri (NT), JD Reforma (NSW), Teho Ropeyarn (QLD), Yasmin Smith (NSW), and Katie West (WA).

Ida says it was “amazing” to be recognised amongst this lineup of artists under 40.

“I feel like that opportunity to contribute to the contemporary dialogues the Art Gallery of South Australia is championing, and to show alongside such an epic lineup of artists, it’s a deeply humbling experience, which I’m so grateful for,” Ida says.

“And it’s also the debut of… ‘Witness’, which I get to share with my incredible crew, who worked really hard to make it a reality for me. So yeah, it feels really exciting to be sharing this with them as well.”

Ida’s work, and those of the other Ramsay finalists, will be on show at AGSA from now until 27 August. For more information on the exhibition, see here.

Ida Sophia and her winning work ‘Witness’, installed at AGSA. This photo: Saul Steed


In addition to the Ramsay accolade, Ida is also CityMag and InDaily’s inaugural 40 Under 40 Artist in Residence.

As part of that program, she adapted her work ‘Through Me, The Road’, alongside artistic director Sharmonie Cockayne, to be used as the backdrop for the 40 Under 40 photo shoot.

‘Through Me, The Road’ is an installation work, first presented at the Adelaide Central School of Art, which examines the bodily experience of awe.

“‘Through Me, The Road’ is an immense installation that has the effect of inducing an immediate bodily experience of awe,” Ida says.

“It’s three metres tall, you lean back to take it in, your eyes open wide, your chest opens, through this series of nine successive pairs of doors, which invite you to enter.

“They only open one way, and what’s beyond the doors is obscured. They have to be pushed open, and this is an intended, conscious action of choice. They automatically close behind you, and so the commitment to your choice and that follow-through becomes tangible.

“It feels like an appropriate work to photograph the 40 Under 40 in front of, because their courageous decision-making and ambition has led to some pretty incredible results that benefit our diverse community.”

CityMag and InDaily’s 40 Under 40 will be announced at an event at Adelaide Oval on Thursday, 8 June. Our 40 finalists for 2023 will be published in our next print edition, which also launches at the event.

For tickets to the 40 Under 40 gala, visit the website.

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