Sunday, September 13, 2009

Blake Prize

Went to the opening of the Blake Prize at the new(ish) NAS Gallery - a really beautiful space of two storeys and sweeping staircase that is a credit to the alma mater. It was packed!!! So many seriously arty people and a great mix of artists there. Generally, I think it was a good exhibition, much improved by the new direction of encouraging investigation of a broad definition of "spirituality". Hence, the winning video Rapture (silent anthem) by Angelica Mesiti recorded the heightened state of people at a rock concert, using a camera hidden in the stage, and thereby, also alluded to the darker side of fanaticism and religious emotion. It really was enigmatic - a great touch removing the music from the track, alienating the action from the source and focusing on the strangeness of the young ecstatic faces.
I also enjoyed Fiona White's "Brother's Keeper" painted in enamel paint, referring to her days on the mission. I first saw her work in the "Culture Warriors" exhibition (which, I read in SMH, is opening in Katzen Art Centre, American University, Washington) and it has lost none of its power to me- a lovely blend of childish naivety with a heavy execution and barely realised faces, that carry much darkness in their story telling. The photography in the show is generally of a high standard; the ceramic "OmphalusV" by Avital Sheffer is beautiful, and Guy Maestri's "Google Earth, Faith or Fear", although poorly titled - I mean, its a fact, get over it- was well painted in his Archibald Winning style rather than his usual expressive manner, and the interesting/weird subject demanded attention.
However, there were a few "Names" that just didn't deserve to be there, but their iconic style applied to, say, the execution of a cathedral (how deep and thought provoking is that?), showed that, although the society was willing to expand its acceptance of what constitutes "Sacred Art", they weren't willing to offend some people ("mates"?) who are seen to be the real thing in the commercial market.
And there was also a piece of canvas, badly cut (not straight), pinned to the wall (no frame) with repetitive dabs of red on an ochre background (not well executed), which we were expected to accept as sacred because it looked like it was done by an indigenous artist (who hadn't painted much before). What an insult to all those who actually spent time thinking about spirituality, painting for weeks and months, producing good work, but still missed out (Me!)
Anyway, found a great video on uTube linked to the title above and here in case that doesn't work
Image: My Brother's keeper, Fiona White

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