The Blake Prize, named in honour of visionary poet and artist, William Blake, is for the art piece that in the judges’ minds is best as ‘a work of contemporary art that explores the themes of spirituality, religion and human justice’. Given its existence now over 59 years, it is not hard to believe it has endured a fair degree of controversy over those years, kicking off as early as 1954 with Charles Bannon’s Judas Iscariot; controversy spawned not only of subject matter but whether pieces submitted do indeed explore the themes required.
This year may not have patrons manning the barricades but opinions will be divided on many of the works, starting with the winner, (Revd) Leonard Brown’s If you put your ear close, you’ll hear the breathing.
This skin and white coloured pattern is certainly a triumph of the craft, each boomerang like white brush stroke so wonderfully mimicking those around it, but whether it warrants the unanimous stamp of approval of the judges as a ‘work of outstanding visual intelligence and one with a profound contemplative content’ is another matter.
Charles Butcher’s highly commended Beyond the Object is of five pieces being a black box wrapped initially in a steel casing that gradually unfolds to reveal itself as a cross. Rodney Pople’s Cardinal with Altar Boy is certainly an affront to the church, a painted image of a cardinal with an altar boy in a problematic position between the cardinal’s knees montaged onto a photo of the interior of a famous Venice cathedral. Competent, controversial or clichéd, you be the judge
Stuart Cole’s World Cup Religion – Winning hearts and Minds, is a series of motifs of teams and cultures represented in football’s biggest event. It brings some levity to the exhibition that otherwise often gets very intense.
The exhibition also has the winners of simultaneously run prizes for Human Justice, emerging artists and the people’s choice as well as a poetry prize, with its entries displayed on a video monitor.
Respected annual prizes and controversy, especially when they go together, are always worth the effort of self appraisal and the light and airy Artspace Gallery is an ideal venue to explore the work and views of others and then emit a scream outside on the plaza.
Kryztoff Rating 3.5K
[Image – Janine Mackintosh’s Above and Beyond winner of People’s Choice Award
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