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Blake Prize winners announced

The 58th Blake Prize: Exploring the religious and spiritual in art

Chair of the Blake Society, Rev Rod Pattenden, today announced the winners for the 58th Blake Prize. The judging panel comprised of artist Del Kathryn Barton, Journalist, Broadcaster and Religious Commentator Stephen Crittenden and Art Critic and Writer Andrew Frost.

This year’s Blake Prize and the John Coburn Emerging Artist Award have both been awarded to video works. The 58th Blake Prize of $20,000 has been awarded to artist Angelica Mesiti for a silent video work entitled Rapture (silent anthem). Filmed from a concealed position beneath the stage at a rock concert, Mesiti’s camera looks out at a sea of ecstatic young faces. In a unanimous decision, the judges praised it for its beauty, emotional intensity and technical virtuosity. An enigmatic work that operates on many levels, Rapture depicts the joy of being alive while also hinting at the darker aspects of religious emotion.

The John Coburn Emerging Artist Award of $5,000 has been awarded to Grant Stevens for another technically accomplished digital video work entitled In the Beyond. Having viewed more than a thousand works, the judges were impressed by the strength and diversity of this year’s field of entries and have decided to single out a number of entries as ‘highly commended’ works. These include Aboriginal artist Nelly Gordon for Church Stories – The Altar and the Cross, Lindy Lee for The Palace of Kuan Yin, Peter Graham for Uprising, Stephen Crane for My Little Pony, and Alexander McKenzie for The Burning Tree, Exodus 3.

A new Award was presented this year, the $5,000 Blake Prize for Human Justice, sponsored by the Maritime Union of Australia, which acknowledges and promotes the work of artists who have addressed the issues of human justice. The inaugural Blake Prize for Human Justice has been won by Dianne Coulter with her work Cousin of Elizabeth NT.

The Blake Poetry Prize, of $5,000, undertaken in partnership with the NSW Writers’ Centre and Leichhardt Council, has been won by Four Ways to Approach the Numinous, by John Watson. The judges, poet, prose writer and creative writing teacher Joanne Burns and poet, publisher and critic David Musgrave said, “The Blake Poetry Prize is unique in Australia for requiring an engagement with a topic which many poets find challenging: rendering into verse that which cannot be easily articulated without lapsing into lyrical, moral, aesthetic glibness, or received rhetoric. This year’s winning entry, Four Ways to Approach the Numinous is an outstanding example of a successful poetic engagement with manifestations of the divine.”

Rev Pattenden said, “The 58th Blake Prize has garnered a richly diverse range of responses from poets and visual artists from around Australia. Each creative work makes a response to a sense of the spirit within the complex and sometimes conflicting nature of contemporary culture. This year’s visual arts prize is marked by a more contemporary look with significant participation from younger artists and new media works. The Poetry Prize, now in its second year, is securing a place in the literary community as a significant and innovative opportunity for new writing that uncovers an engagement with the grammar of the spirit. And the new award for a work addressing Human Justice draws attention to the connection between seeing injustice and acting with justice.”

The 58th Blake Prize Exhibition will be on view at the National Art School Gallery, Forbes Street, Darlinghurst Sydney from Sept 4 – Oct 3, 2009. The Gallery is open from 10am – 4pm, Mon–Sat. Entry is free.