James Powditch

Intelligent Design
An artwork advocating science over faith wins religious art prize

Collector, The Wentworth Courier
November 23, 2005

“There are only two true religions: scientific method and football,” James Powditch said after he was declared the joint winner of the prestigious Blake Prize for Religious Art on November 17.

A past finalist in the Sulman and Wynne prizes, Mr Powditch said he found it amusing that his first major win was for religious art.

“I didn’t even think I’d get hung this year,” he said. “I was very negative.”

Mr Powditch’s work, God is in the Detail, uses enlarged prints of Pelican’s familiar 1950s and 60s science textbooks and covers of religious texts from the same series.

He said he created the work a s a protest against the inclusion of Intelligent Design Theory (ID) in school curricula, for which the Federal Minister for Education, Brendan Nelson, has controversially given in-principle support. ID theorises that nature and the universe are the work of a purpose-driven agent – for example, a god.

At a National Press Club meeting on August 10, Dr Nelson said that if, alongside Darwin’s theory of evolution, “schools also want to present students with intelligent design, I don’t have any difficulty with that”.

Dr Nelson made the comment after watching a 65-minute DVD sent to him by the international missionary group, C ampus Crusade for Christ.

The chairwoman of the Blake Society, Rose Peterson, praised Mr Powditch’s work for being “topical”.

“Politics and religion are the two most volatile elements, along with art, in society,” she said. “The Blake triggers awareness and discussion. Whether you agree or disagree is not important; it’s about getting these issues into the open.”

Mr Powditch’s work tied with Melbourne artist Louise Rippert’s Dance, a grid of dried and painted flower petals. The two artists will split the $15,000 prize.

There were few crucifixes or angels among the 67 other finalists, selected from 465 entries. Other works included a crown of thorns encircling a metal circumcised penis, an interactive piece allowing participants to “make your own god”, a photograph of a Christ-like figure on a motorbike and another of two “muscle gods” working out at Bondi beach.

The Blake Prize will be exhibited at the Sir Hermann Black Gallery in the University of Sydney’s Wentworth Building until December 17.


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