Announcing the winners of the 2023 EQUS Quantum Art Competition

With the sun still setting on World Quantum Day, we’re thrilled to announce the winners of the 2023 EQUS Quantum Art Competition.  We were once again overwhelmed by the quality of the entries, and the variety of artistic media and interpretations of the theme, ‘duality’.

The winning entry is an interactive sculptural work, Youturn, by Natasha Johns-Messenger.  Youturn explores quantum duality through the deliberate use of identical structures and periscopic mirrors, which create an illusion that challenges the boundaries of reality and asks participant-viewers to consider what is real and what is perception.

The runner-up entry is Celestial Realm, by Minghua Xiang.  Drawing inspiration from modern microscopic molecular aesthetics, Minghua combines traditional Chinese splash-ink techniques with Western abstraction.  The spontaneous fusion of contemporary art and quantum enables quantum aesthetics—such as the striped patterns of interference fringes—to be visualised in a way that breaks through disciplines.

The winner of the under-18 prize is Selina Decarlo, for her work Triptych, which explores the many appearances duality makes in our lives and in nature, and the tapestry of possibilities that unveil themselves from such interactions.

The winner and runner-up were determined from the shortlisted entries by a panel of expert judges:

  • Dr Andrea Rassell, filmmaker, media artist and interdisciplinary researcher in science art, Creative and Performance Leadership Fellow, Curtin University
  • Bori Benkő, artist and winner of the 2022 EQUS Quantum Art Competition
  • Professor Kirk McKenzie, experimental physicist, The Australian National University, EQUS Chief Investigator
  • Mónica Bello, curator and hear of arts at CERN
  • Dr Todd Robinson, multidisciplinary researcher, designer and artist, Senior Lecturer, School of Design, University of Technology Sydney

The winning entries will be featured in an exhibition, 16–20 May 2024 at Flow Studios in Sydney, alongside 35+ other entries to the 2023 EQUS Quantum Art Competition. 

Congratulations to the winners and a huge thank you to all entrants for your contribution.  

To find out more about the exhibition and reserve tickets to the opening night, visit

Winner: Youturn, by Natasha Johns-Messenger

In this artwork, Youturn, my exploration of quantum duality manifests through the deliberate use of identical structures and periscopic mirrors.  The repurposed hardwood frames, containing Red-Gum cubed frames with Celery Top concentric circles, serve as a geometric framing device, creating a periscope illusion that challenges the boundaries of reality as if the artwork frames extend through the wall and back out again via the opposite corner.  The artwork’s essence resonates with quantum conundrums such as the changing behaviour of photons, wave or particle?  Are you there through the wall? homage to the observer effect.  As participant-viewers engage, the installation prompts a range of possible positions until observed, reflecting the uncertainty inherent in quantum phenomena.  The dual perspectives echo the duality inherent in waves or particles, akin to the enigmatic double-slit experiment.  Profound questions about what is real and the nature of reality in relation to perception are the core interest of my art practice and align with the complexities and paradoxes of quantum mechanics, inviting contemplation on the trustworthiness of our perceptions.  What is real in my perception?

Artist bio

With a primary interest in perception and site, Natasha Johns-Messenger creates installations that employ body-scaled architectural interventions and optical works.  In 2000 she completed an MFA at RMIT University, in 2012 she completed an MFA at Columbia University, New York, and she is currently a PhD candidate in Architecture at RMIT University.  Recent commissions include: Building H Commission, Monash University Caulfield Campus, Victoria (2024); The Southern Way Freeway Commission, Peninsula Link, Melbourne, through McClelland Gallery and Sculpture Park (2023); and an artistic collaboration with John Wardle Architects for the work Somewhere Other, La Biennale di Venezia, the 16th International Architecture Exhibition (2018).  Other exhibitions include: Sitelines, a solo show at Heide Museum of Modern Art (2016).  Notable public works include: Alterview 2013 in New York, commissioned by Percent For Art and NYC Department of Cultural Affairs; and ThisSideIn 2011, commissioned by the New York Public Art Fund in 2009.  In 2007 Natasha won the Den Haag Sculpture Prize in The Netherlands, presented by Queen Beatrix; in 2005 she won the Melbourne Prize for Urban Sculpture with OSW.

Runner-up: Celestial Realm, by Minghua Xiang

46 cm × 61 cm
Ink on canvas

The concept of quantum originates from modern science's deeper exploration of the microscopic world.  The spontaneous fusion of contemporary art and quantum enables this visualization process to display quantum aesthetics in a way that breaks through disciplines.

The wave–particle duality of quantum mechanics describes the two existence forms of microscopic particles, namely particle state and wave state.  This duality of existence, under certain conditions, will produce a physical phenomenon called interference, and the visual presentation of the interference phenomenon is interference fringes.  This striped pattern is fully demonstrated in my work Celestial Realm.
Drawing inspiration from modern microscopic molecular aesthetics, I pour ink onto canvas and observe the shapes it decides to form.  It combines traditional Chinese splash-ink techniques with Western abstraction. It is a portrait and paean to every molecular life inspired by molecular aesthetics.  It constructs a vivid visual world for the proposition of the relationship between the microscopic concept of human beings and the macroscopic concept of the universe—humans and non-human beings.  It depicts a concrete universe that is naturally disordered, chaotic and fantastic from the microscopic perspectives of the West and the East.
‘Becoming’ is the core concept and methodology of my artistic practice.  Its essence lies in Taoist and Zen aesthetics, Queer Theory and Posthumanism philosophy, thereby challenging binaries such as gender, sexuality and race.  It transcends the Anthropocene, tolerates differences, advocates equality for all living beings, and paints a beautiful vision of harmonious coexistence for the current crisis-ridden international political relations.

Artist bio

Nearly 20 years of working experience as a graphic designer has taught Minghua Xiang to observe and perceive the world from different perspectives of commercial and art.  They received a Master Degree of Fine Arts from National Art School last year.  During their studies, they received the East Sydney Doctors Scholarship 2022 and the Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre Nancy Fairfax (AIR) Award 2023.
As an Australian born in China and now living in Sydney’s Inner West on the Gadigal People’s land and an emerging visual artist, Minghua is interested in how to reflect and integrate multicultural influences.  Their work was a finalist for the 12th GreenWay Art Award 2021 and for the Calleen Art Award 2023 in Australia.

Under-18 winner: Triptych, by Selina Decarlo

Push and pull.  Scattering and diffracting.  Observer and the observed.  A particle and a wave.  Growing up as an only child, I was always wishing for a sibling (much to the indignation of my peers), and still often marvel at the possibility of an entity or relationship so analogous to one's own, yet conflicting, contradictory—dual in nature. 

My piece, ‘Triptych’, created for the 2023 EQUS Quantum Art Competition, explores the many appearances duality makes in our lives, in nature, and the tapestry of possibilities that unveil themselves from such interactions, fascinatingly modelled in the double-slit experiment and branched flow.

Twin panels surrounding the central panel represent complementary figures, overlayed by the double slit interference pattern in which an emergence of electrons in the far left panel ripples out and across to the right.  A dialogue is had in this span.  The central panel fortifies this, depicting a tree-like branched flow which connects the triptych throughout.  Lotus flowers and leaves connect in tessellations inspired by M. C. Escher’s geometric abstractions of mathematical concepts.
In the words of Werner Heisenberg: ‘the atoms or elementary particles themselves are not real; they form a world of possibilities rather than one of things or facts’.  It is at times like these that I find science comforting, and that I feel less alone.  Humans, who are rooms waiting to be explored hold the extraordinary potential to kindle connections.  For relationships to branch out in every possibility.  And for every action to hold a dual nature.

Artist bio

Selina Decarlo is a high-school student and only child, born and raised in Sydney, Australia.  She is an artist and writer at heart, having won the 2023 Be Well Youth Art Prize and the 2023 BR4R Seeking Asylum Poetry Prize, placed as a top 10 finalist in the Young Authors Writing Competition for Columbia University, featured in the No Tokens Journal Issue 11 as editor’s choice, and more.

Major funding support

Australian Research Council

The Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems (EQUS) acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respects to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present.