James Powditch

Political comment and meditative celebration
- winners and finalists of the 2005 Blake Prize

News, University of Sydney website November 18, 2005

The Blake Prize for Religious Art has long embraced works not obviously religious, and this year's jointly-winning entries, announced yesterday at the University of Sydney Union’s Sir Hermann Black Gallery, are certainly that.

Sydney-based James Powditch’s ironically titled God is in the detail (intelligent design) was prompted by his being sent into “an absolute lather” by Brendan Nelson’s recent comment in the media that intelligent design – or creationism – should be taught in schools.

The mixed media work comprises blow-ups of covers of the Pelican popular science books of the 1920s and '30s, juxtaposed against US coins bearing the motto “In God we trust”, and images of flood lakes.

“It’s meant to be anti-fundamentalist at all levels,” he said. “I believe in the scientific method - it’s the one unifying thing in a pretty crazy world at the moment - and I believe in faith, but the two should not be confused.”

He’s concerned about the “anti-science push” he perceives in Australia today, especially in the face of global warming, which is what his images of flood lakes reference (while the book covers hark back to “the days when we thought science was going to solve all our problems”) .

“There’s a lot of good science on global warming that has been completely ignored. For the last 30 years we’ve been talking about it, and you have these governments employing their own scientists to say that it’s rubbish.

“That’s a worrying trend because global warming is the biggest thing that’s going to happen to us, probably bigger than terrorism, and because of the rise of the right, that science has been quashed.”

Sharing the $15,000 Blake Prize with James Powditch is Louise Rippert for her gently meditative work, Dance, a myriad of delicately coloured, dried petals, each bearing a hand-painted eye and neatly compartmentalised in its own glassine bag in a grid-like display box.

The intention, and the effect of the work, is celebratory of the "profound energy of existence" or "dance of life" - words taken from the accompanying statement of this Melbourne-based artist who, about to give birth to her first child, couldn’t attend the Prize announcement ceremony.

The winning works are showing until 17 December at the Sir Hermann Black Gallery along with those of over 60 finalists selected from a record 465 entries in this 54th year of the Blake Prize.

With an eclectic mix of styles and interpretations, it’s a vibrant exhibition of great diversity, informed, as Blake Prize chair Rose Peterson said, “by a strange harmony of contrasts”.

It has been three years that the Prize has been shown in the Sir Hermann Black Gallery, and both Rose Peterson and gallery director, Nick Vickers, are regretful that it will be the last.

Gallery hours: 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday; 11am-4pm Saturday (02 9563 6053).

Media enquiries: Amanda Buckworth Publicity: 02 9451 0847 / 0413 949 140.  


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