Blake Prize

Blake Prize & Blake Poetry Prize

You are here:  Home » news » The nerve between Pop culture and Religious Fundamentalism


The nerve between Pop culture and Religious Fundamentalism

By Anne Phillips

Posted: 31 August 2007, 17:15RSS

"The controversy surrounding works on exhibition in this year's Blake prize for Religious Art is an indication of why art is such a powerful means of exploring cultural and religious difference" claimed Chair of the Blake Prize, Rev Rod Pattenden.

Rev Pattenden said of the controversy, "Whilst I am disappointed with the sensationalist beat up in some parts of the media I think there is a real nerve being hit here. I have received several angry phone calls from people claiming religious allegiance who have expressed themselves with clear hatred and violence towards other religious groups. Art and the Blake prize, in particular, does our culture a service when it can make us aware of our prejudices, our hatreds and the intolerance that sometimes underlies some forms of belief."

Tongan born, Rev Dr Jione Havea - one of the judges of this year's Prize - said "The Blake is a place where all religious expressions are welcomed. It is an important place where life, faith and imagination intersect. Sometimes it will be controversial, but this is healthy for our culture for we are not all the same, with the same journey."

Artist, Luke Sullivan, caught up in the controversy over his depiction of the Virgin Mary with Muslim burqa said of work, "Women often bear the responsibility to be pure chaste and submissive to the needs of men. To simply be shocked at this work is to choose to avoid the deeper offence of the work, that is to ask questions about the place of women in religion."

Priscilla Bracks explains the serious intention of her work. "Osama Bin Laden and Jesus could not have ethics that are more different. There is a very real possibility that by giving media attention to those who commit crimes and advocate violence, we elevate them to a status where in some circles, they are perceived as sacred and holy - revered in the same way we revere Jesus. To me this work is a cautionary tale about our fixation with crime, violence and catastrophe."

Rod Pattenden concluded that "Attention has been taken away from the winning works that had profoundly positive things to say about faith in the midst of our multicultural society." The winner, Shirley Purdie, from the aboriginal community of Warmun in Western Australia, and winner of the John Coburn Emerging Artist Prize - Indonesian born, Jamaadi, offered real insights into the complexity of faith and compassion in contemporary world. It is the genius of the Blake Prize to makes these things visible through the work of artists.

The Blake Prize will be on exhibition at the National Art School Gallery, cnr Forbes and Burton Sts, Darlinghurst, from 10am -4pm, Monday - Saturday, until September 29, 2007.

Further media enquiries and images contact Rod Pattenden on 0418 861267 or


Modified by on August 30, 2010