The inaugural Blake Prize for Human Justice, sponsored by the Maritime Union of Australia, has been won by Victorian artist Dianne Coulter for her ceramic sculpture Cousin of Elizabeth NT.
The new category of the Blake Prize, worth $5000 and sponsored by the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), acknowledges and promotes the work of artists who have addressed issues of human and social justice.
"The winning creation, a sculpture of an Aboriginal woman, challenges our conditioned responses to race and humanity and embodies what this new award is about", said National Secretary of the Union, Paddy Crumlin. Mr Crumlin and Rev Rod Pattenden, Chair of the Blake Society, were the judges of the prize, selected from the 88 finalists and drawn from 1000 original entries.
"Cousin Elizabeth NT is a powerful work amongst many outstanding creations, all helping us to understand our humanity with greater clarity. The union and the working men and women that make it up are pleased to be able to support the work of the team at the Blake and the artists that find their expression elevated there", said Paddy Crumlin, national secretary of the MUA.
On her winning entry artist Dianne Coulter said: "I have dressed her immaculately in natural fibre: wool for the lamb, cotton for Egypt that gave sanctuary, pregnant for hope, carrying a loaf of white bread for nourishment - alluding to Christ. Or is she just a frightened, disenfranchised young girl with a lousy loaf of dubious quality bread caught drinking at the wrong watering hole?"
Mr Crumlin commented that: "She holds on to you a little like her connection to the land. Her skin and hair with tones of iron ore, strong feet and hands anchoring her to her daily needs and demands and a face that reflects emotions from different angles, she seems prepared and reflective on her upcoming birth. The white bread is at odds with her rich nature and physicality and holds a number of contradictions to consider".
Rev Rod Pattenden said the new category draws attention to the connection between seeing injustice and acting with justice. "This year the Blake Prize bristled with ideas. Far more than any other art prize, the Blake Prize gives artists an opportunity to explore their motivations, loves and passionate questions," Rev Pattenden said.
"Since the great social and industrial upheavals of the '30s the union has been concerned from a progressive perspective with confronting the extremes of violence and intolerance with a more constructive and sympathetic view of what human beings are capable of, and have consistently sought to engage in art, theatre and other elements of creative expression of our humanity", Mr Crumlin said.
"In the '50s, for example, we developed and encouraged a film unit to measure and record aspects of the struggle of working people with compassion, sympathy and support, a unique commitment at the time that is recognized today for it's seminal influence" he said.
The 58th Blake Prize Exhibition, featuring the Blake Prize, the Blake Prize for Human Justice, the John Coburn Emerging Artist Award and the Blake Poetry Prize, will be on view at the National Art School Gallery, Forbes Street, Darlinghurst from Sept 4 - Oct 3, 2009. The Gallery is open from 10am - 4pm, Mon-Sat. Entry is free.
Further details can be found at www.blakeprize.com.au
Media Contact: Paddy Crumlin 0413 379660
Michael Meagher 0410482367