Day 305: Them and Us, by Abdul Abdullah

Abdul Abdullah 2011

Day 305: Them and Us, by Abdul Abdullah

Last night I attended a lecture by Rosemary Crumlin, OAM, on the history of the Blake Prize for Religious Art, held in conjunction with the recent publication of Crumlin’s The Blake Book: Art, Religion, and Spirituality in Australia [Melbourne: Macmillan, 2010]. The Blake Prize holds a special significance for Crumlin, who is an ordained nun, with a personal interest in religious art that has expressed itself over the years in books and articles on the subject, as well as a number of exhibitions, the most monumental of which is arguably Beyond Belief, staged at the NGV in 1998. Furthermore, Crumlin had attended almost all Blake Prize exhibitions; was a finalist in a number of them; and dedicated her earlier thesis to the history of the first 25 years of the Prize. The book, which surveys 60 years of the Blake Prize history, is therefore very much a continuation and culmination of her life-long interest and association with the Prize.

The lecture was interesting inasmuch as it contained innumerable personal insights into Crumlin’s own impressions of the Prize; her thoughts on its various winners and runners-up; as well as personal relationships that had developed between the writer and the artists both during her involvement in the Prize and in the course of her research of the earlier thesis and the current volume.

The book itself is a treat to behold. Crumlin has taken an almost encyclopaedic approach to this publication in her aim to illustrate and provide authoritative insights to the sixty winning works from 1951 to 2010 by such artists as Justin O’Brien, Frank Hinder, Donald Friend, Eric Smith, Stan Rapotec, Leonard French, Roger Kemp, Ken Whisson, Alan Oldfield, Warren Breninger, Rosemary Valadon, George Gittoes, John Davis, Hilarie Mais, Euan Macleod, Leonard Brown, and numerous others. The images of winning pieces are frequently accompanied within the pages of the book by related works within the oeuvre of the respective artists, showing the depth of interest and involvement in their exploration of religious subject matter.

The lavishly illustrated fold-out pages feature works by some of the finalists from various years. Together with the winning pieces, they provide a most valuable insight into the gradually changing face of the Blake Prize for Religious Art, resulting from the timely, fitting, and increasingly visible presence of works by artists from diverse religious backgrounds (such as Abdul Abdullah’s Them and Us, winner of the MUA Human Justice Prize of the 2011 Blake Prize exhibition).


http://abdulabdullah.com/home.html / http://www.fehilycontemporary.com.au/pages/abdul-abdullah/

[© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2012; where applicable, images are courtesy of the artists and their galleries.]

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Eugene Barilo v. Reisberg

October 2012


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