James Powditch
A work of devotion, though not necessarily to religion

Sunanda Creagh
The Sydney Morning Herald November 18, 2005

Photo: Jon Reid

When the Blake Prize for Religious Art was established in 1949, its founders dreamt it would inspire artists to paint new works for churches.

The co-winner of this year's $15,000 Blake Prize, James Powditch, suspects his painting was not exactly the devotional work they had in mind.

"I am pretty sure [they] didn't want me doing this," Powditch chuckles, nodding at his winning painting God is in the Detail (Intelligent Design).

The work, which contrasts science books with philosophy books (and a cheeky picture of a bearded, bespectacled Queen Elizabeth) is a dig at proponents of "intelligent design" - the theory that suggests nature is so complex it can only be explained as the handiwork of a higher being.

Powditch, who hangs paintings at the Art Gallery of NSW, dedicates the work to "one of the all-time A-grade dimwits" - the federal Education Minister, Brendan Nelson.

"I saw Brendan Nelson on the news basically saying it would not be bad idea to teach intelligent design in school. It just drove me hysterical that the Education Minister would be advocating it," he said.

After an "embarrassing" stint as a born-again Christian during art school, Powditch renounced organised religion, but he remains interested in the debate surrounding religion.

"I think faith is a fantastic thing but I guess it's that crossover into politicians using it purely for political ends that worries me," he said.

The prize was jointly won by Powditch and Melbourne artist Louise Rippert, for her delicate leaf and paper work Dance. Works by Adam Cullen and Thomas Spence were highly commended.

The Blake Society's chairwoman, Rose Peterson, said this year's record 465 entries reflected a growing interest in the role of religion in society.

Sacred and profane … James Powditch attacks intelligent design in God is in the Detail (Intelligent Design), which has won the Blake Prize for Religious Art.


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