James Powditch
A creative 'rant' on creationism

Rosalie Higson
The Australian November 18, 2005

RELIGION, politics and science are uneasy bedfellows but the two winners of this year's Blake Prize for Religious Art have found inspiration in the tension between them.

James Powditch's winning God is in the Detail (Intelligent Design) is about the infiltration of fundamentalism into secular schools "by the back door".

Co-winner Louise Rippert's Dance is a delicate and meditative collage of hundreds of small, many-coloured leaves, each painted with a tiny eye, displayed in glassine bags like precious stamps.

The artist said Dance arose from her concern about the plight of humanity and the manipulation of religious fears by politicians for their own ends.

For Rippert, who lives in Melbourne, her share prize was an unexpected baby bonus - she was unable to attend the award ceremony due to the imminent arrival of her first child.

Sydney-based Powditch, 39, said he was inspired by a television appearance by the Minister for Education, Brendan Nelson, advocating choice in schools.

Powditch called Dr Nelson a "dimwit" in his artist's statement, and wondered how the minister could advocate creationism, "which is essentially what intelligent design is".

He enlarged covers from vintage Pelican popular science books and added American coins because they have the motto: In God We Trust.

"The 20s and 30s was an era when science was going to solve everything for us. Basically, the piece is anti-fundamentalism, whether it's religious, political, or economic. It's a bit of a rant, but there is a lot of anti-science going on to suit political ends," he said.

On show at the Sir Hermann Black Gallery at Sydney University, the annual competition attracted nearly 500 entries, which organisers said reflected the prominence of religion in contemporary life.

In the Blake's 54-year history, the focus has changed - often controversially - from rather conventional non-denominational religious subjects to art in which spirituality comes in many provocative guises.

Other works in the exhibition incorporate gay iconography, ranks of Catholic cardinals and Hindu gods through to completely abstract pieces, Islamic poetry and a build-your-own-deity internet piece called The Omnipotent, by Allan Maurice Giddy.

 

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