From Andrew Frost…
The Blake Prize holds a special place in the annual exhibition calendar. Staged in November among the place-holding group shows and summer salons, this venerable but lively prize art attracts controversy and provokes debate, usually among those with little interest in art at other times of the year. As a prize for religious art it touches on issues of faith and belief and the firmly held convictions of audiences that believe that religious art is an expression of deeply held conservative values, or by contrast, just another genre of art making that can be as irreverent, or just as downright atheistic as your regular, secular contemporary art.
This year’s Blake Prize is held at the SH Ervin Gallery and has a trimmed down field of just 35 finalists. Compared to recent years this is a modest outing but the selection of finalists is strong: more traditionally ‘religious’ works tend to come from Indigenous artists, such as Cowboy Loy Pwerl’s Untitled or the folk forms of Cath Braid and Rolla Khadduri and Women of Chitral‘s Jumu’ah. Long known as a prize sympathetic to abstract art, this year’s finalists also include Tim Johnson’s Lakshma, Sally Blake’s Sol Niger and Louise Rippert’s Not Dark Yet. Among the photographs, sculptures and mixed media works, Jane Becker and Sue Saxon’s Hope stands out for its simplicity and directness – a string of fairy lights spelling out the title. As to how all this might be considered ‘religious’ is in the eye of the beholder.
November 9 to December 16
S.H. Ervin Gallery, The Rocks.
Pic: Jane Becker and Sue Saxon, Hope, 2012. Fairy lights, eggshells, glue, 170x170x70cms.