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Pregnant Sculptures, Whirling Dervishes and the First Ever Poet Take Out Australia's Top Award for Art and Faith
Peter Daverington.

SYDNEY.- The Blake Prize of A$20,000 has been awarded to artist David Tucker for a sculptural work that depicts a procession of pregnant women and symbols of Egyptian, Christian and Hindu traditions. From over one thousand entries (more than double the previous year), Tucker's work A Local Girl Comes Home was selected for its simple, positive joy, with judges praising its technical finesse as well as its conceptual resonance across various forms of faith. His and the other winning works and all short-listed works of art and poetry are on display as part of the Blake Prize Exhibition, from Friday 5th September until Saturday 4th October, at the National Art School Gallery, Sydney.

Peter Daverington has won the John Coburn Award for Emerging Artists for his work Mevlana – The Dervish Series, a category introduced in 2007. And poet Mark Tredinnick has taken out the first ever Blake Poetry Prize, a new category initiated this year. Other entries have been singled out as 'highly commended' works, both in the art and poetry categories. Kay Alliband was named 'highly commended' for the Blake Prize, for her set of 27 raku-fired ceramic Mum's Angels.And in the Blake Poetry Prize, a work by young Melbourne poet Chloe Wilson and a second entry submitted by the major winner, Mark Tredinnick were also named 'highly commended'. The winning poem "Paradise" by Mark Tredinnick and those awarded 'highly commended' will appear in Wet Ink magazine and the winning poet awarded A$5,000. All poetry works submitted are printed and bound in hand-crafted books created individually by nine local book binders. These are on display as part of the Blake Prize exhibition.

The judges of the art prize, Lachlan Warner, Dr Kathleen McPhillips and Nick Vickers (who replaced Dr Christopher Allen after his withdrawal during the shortlisting process), were impressed with the high calibre of works entered this year and in particular, noted the strength, range and quality of the photo media entries in this year's finalists' exhibition. The winning work A Local Girl Comes Home was selected for its simple joy, and for its potent resonances with the spiritual traditions of Eastern cultures, particularly Hindu and Buddhist. It depicts a set of three naked, pregnant woman, a man and a cow in a procession, each carrying a sacred token, which is derived from the traditional figure of The Goddess, usually depicted with many arms each holding a symbol. In his interpretation of the figure, David Tucker creates one figure for each set of arms and symbolic token, adapting it for a contemporary, western context and merging it with personal inspirations for the work. After using friends as models for his work over the years, Tucker was inspired by the pregnancy of several of these friends to create a work that embraced this, fusing the 'rites of passage' of both his friends, and the traditional figure of The Goddess. The result is a sculptural work that brings together spiritual experiences of the timeless and the contemporary, public and personal, symbolic and actual. The 57th Blake Prize exhibition is on show at the National Art School Gallery, Forbes St, Darlinghurst from Friday 5th September to Saturday 4th October, before going on regional tour. The gallery is open 10am – 4pm, Mon to Sat. Entry is free.

57th Blake Prize – David Tucker, A Local Girl Comes Home
John Coburn Award for Emerging Artists – Peter Daverington, Mevlana – The Dervish Series
Blake Poetry Prize – Mark Tredinnick, "Have You Seen"
- Highly Commended, 57th Blake Prize – Kay Alliband, Mum's Angels
- Highly Commended, Blake Poetry Prize – Chloe Wilson, " Dorothy Wordsworth, Boling Turnips" and Mark Tredinnick, "Paradise".

A Local Girl Comes Home by David Tucker (Winner, 57th Blake Prize)

Ceramic, wood, linen and ink

A Local Girl Comes Home is based on the personal story of two of Tucker's close friends. As Tucker explains, "My friends who have been modeling for me for years became pregnant and I was inspired to create a work that told a story both personal and universal. Their story is a general one that continues through the generations. In this work, I've told their tale through a procession, which is an archetypal image, seen in many cultures. The inspiration for this work are Egyptian hieroglyphics, pre-Renaissance Christian sculpture, and work which I saw at the 'Goddess Divine Energy' exhibition at the Art Gallery Of New South Wales in 2007. My aim was to use my western understanding to tell a story that had been told in many other ways in other cultures. Instead of having one female figure with six arms as depicted in Hinduism for example, I created multiple figures of the one woman three times to form a procession. She is coming home to begin her new life as a mother bearing the symbolic attributes of the journey."

Born in London in 1950, David Tucker emigrated to Australia in his mid-twenties and then established a home in Dundurrabin on the Northern Tablelands of NSW ten years later where he has remained working in a richly rural environment which he considers vital to his creative output. He is an established regional artist, who has had many exhibitions at the Newcastle Regional Art Museum and the Brenda May Gallery, amongst others. He has worked as a sculptor for twenty years.

Mevlana – The Dervish Series by Peter Daverington (winner, John Coburn Award for Emerging Artists)

Charcoal, gesso and pastel on paper

"When I lived in Instanbul I became involved with the Mevlevi (Whirling Dervishes), and my work started to become infused with the mystical ideas contained within Sufism. In 2007 this led to a large installation of sound and drawings, exploring the cosmology of the Whirling Dervish. The piece I have submitted is 2 panels from this series of 26. The text is Jallaludin Rumi's (Mevelevi's Founder) name written in Arabic calligraphy placed inside a spinning dervish, expressing the dynamic rotation of all that is contained within the universe." Peter Daverington.

From 1992 until 2003 Peter travelled the world visiting 46 countries with extended periods In Egypt, Turkey, Germany, USA and Guatemala. Since 1994 he has studied Turkish and Arabian Ney flute with several masters of the instrument in Turkey and Egypt, specializing in the Ottoman and Sufi Music of Turkey. He is currently a lecturer at the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne, and an exhibiting artist based in Melbourne. He was born in 1974.

"Have You Seen" by Mark Tredinnick (winner, inaugral Blake Poetry Prize

Winner of the Newcastle Poetry Prize in 2007 and the Calibre Essay Prize in 2008, Mark Tredinnick lives and writes by the Wingecarribee River, southwest of Sydney (near Bowral). In a past life he was a lawyer and then for a decade a book publisher. His work has appeared in Best Australian Essays and many Australian and US literary journals. Tredinnick's six books include The Land's Wild Music, The Little Red Writing Book, The Little Green Grammar Book, and The Blue Plateau (UQP 2009). A selection of his poems, The Road South, appears on disk in September 2008. At "Nettlebed", where he lives with his young family, he is at work on a collection of poems and a book about the consolations of literature in a frantic age. Find out more about Mark at his website:

Eight artists of a different kind have kindly created individual, hand-crafted books to house entries into the Blake Poetry Prize, and which are on display in the Blake Prize. These are the bookbinders: Keith Chidzey, Monica Oppen, Sue Anderson & Gwen Harrison, Wayne Stock, Rosemarie Jeffers-Palmer, Elizabeth Atkins, Ted Chapman, Lorraine Brown

The Blake Society, named after the visionary artist and poet, William Blake, is an independent organisation that administers the annual Exhibition and Prize for contemporary religious and spiritual art. The aim of the Blake Society is to encourage contemporary artists to explore sources and experiences of faith in art.

The Blake Society was formed at the instigation of a Jesuit priest, Michael Scott, a Jewish businessman, Richard Morley and a Catholic lawyer, Mary Temison Woods. They hoped that the establishment of a prize would encourage artists of disparate styles and religious allegiances to create significant works of art with religious content. Today its members hope to stimulate the interaction of ideas and spiritual thought in contemporary Australian art. The Blake Society is managed by chairperson Rev Rod Pattenden and general manager Stefanie Lewis. The Blake Prize is awarded by the Blake Society Ltd in partnership with the National Art School. In 2008, $20,000 is awarded to the major winner of the 57th Blake Prize, and $5,000 is awarded to a second winner for the John Coburn Award for Emerging Artists.

In addition, this year the NSW Writers' Centre joined with the Blake Society, Leichhardt Municipal Council and Wet Ink magazine to present a new national poetry prize of $5000. With the theme of 'Bliss, blasphemy and belief', it has been established to link art and literature and to give Australian poets new possibilities to explore the nature of spirituality in the 21st century, and as a companion piece to the Blake Prize for Religious Art. First prize is $5000 and publication in Wet Ink. Two commended entries have also been selected for publication in Wet Ink and the entrants will each receive a year's subscription to the magazine.

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