Curator and artist Vera Klute introduces this year's 2021 RDS Visual Art Awards, which moves to the RHA Gallery for the first time for a three-week graduate exhibition, and why we all need to watch out for these emerging young artists as they debut into the professional world - enjoy a gallery above.

The RDS Visual Art Awards is the most important platform for visual art graduates in Ireland. It provides a curated exhibition opportunity and a significant prize fund of over €30,000, as well as vital exposure for emerging visual artists as they move into early professional practice.

Fiona Gordon, 'Excessively Chaotic Utopian Escape 5'

This year, the awards makes a bold move as the renowned annual exhibition moves to the RHA Gallery for the first extended showing of the RDS Visual Art Awards exhibition. Showcased are some of the best BA & MA visual art graduates from all over Ireland, who have gone through a highly competitive two-stage process to get their work into this coveted show, for which this year I am curating the work of the young exhibitors - a very exciting and responsible opportunity for me. The 2021 exhibition runs from 25 November until 19 December, and there will be a lot of really exciting installations to be seen from the young artists.

We will have four curator's tours that I will run at the exhibition at the RHA Gallery from 1pm on November 25, 27, 30 and December 5, all are free to attend but must be booked online.

Karolina Adamczak, 'My Life Does Not Belong To Me'

A record 170 eligible applications were received for the awards this year, which was run via an open application system. The applications were reviewed by a team of six professional curators: Sheena Barrett, Valerie Byrne, Mary Cremin, Seán Kissane, Paul McAree and Sharon Murphy. Between them, they long-listed 53 graduates to move forward to the second stage of the competition.

A judging panel of five visual art professionals then reviewed these long-listed applications and in turn shortlist 25 candidates before selecting the final 10 artists for inclusion in this month's exhibition. Myself (Vera Klute), Rachael Gilbourne, Clíodhna Shaffrey and Una Sealy are the members of the expert judging panel, which was chaired by RHA Director, Patrick T. Murphy.

Catherine McDonald, 'How Far'

This year’s lucky 2021 exhibitors include Karolina Adamczak, Lauren Conway, Rachel Daly, Fiona Gordon, Vanessa Jones, Orla Kelly, Catherine McDonald, Juliette Morrison, Finn Nichol & Roibí O Rua.

All the artworks in the show were made during the restrictions placed on us by Covid 19. Most work does not address the pandemic explicitly, but all seems to mirror a new experience of daily life. There is work about the domestic space and tensions that may have been magnified during lockdown. Some of the work is about how we coped with being isolated and how we spend our time when there’s nothing to do. There is work about empty spaces and a sense of time standing still. Some of the artists are using this vacuum to step back and re-assess the daily grind and the monotony of life.

Juliette_Morrison, 'Cans aux Canal'

On the other hand, there is work that illustrates our urge to reconnect with nature, which is becoming stronger due to the pandemic, but also due to the looming climate emergency that hovers over this more temporary crisis. At the opposite end of the spectrum, some artists are seeing a shift of human experience to a digital world that is hosted online, with its endless distractions, but also limitless possibilities for a reimagined reality.

When looking at the work in this exhibition from the viewpoint of the recent pandemic it shows that, while we were all in the same boat, none of us are the same. A group exhibition like this is a great opportunity to celebrate this variety of different voices.

Lauren Conway, 'Swamp Thing'

These unique art awards and three week exhibition will create bright futures in the art world for art graduates, supporting them to make the transition from college into early professional careers.

The RDS Visual Art Awards 2021 run their annual graduate exhibition at the RHA Gallery from November 25 – December 19th - find out more here.