Sydney artist and Chippendale local, SJ Norman, has won the 67th Blake Prize for a work which focuses on the 147 Aboriginal people who have lost their lives while in police custody over the last decade.
SJ Norman’s winning photographic diptych, Cicatrix (All that was taken, all that remains), documents 147 incisions which were made on the skin of the artist’s back during a ritual work lasting 147 minutes.
In the work, Norman stages a personal reclamation of the ancestral mourning rights he has been divested of as a Wiradjuri person. Cicatrix thus invites a consideration of the body as a vessel of complex grief, and the wound as a technology of transmutation.
From 65 finalist works, Norman was selected as the winner of the $35,000 cash prize at a launch event at Casula Powerhouse on Saturday March 26.
The three Blake Prize judges were Megan Monte, the inaugural Director of Ngununggula; Abdul Abdullah, a significant Australian multi-disciplinary artist; and Rosemary Crumlin OAM, a Sister of Mercy, art historian, educator and exhibition curator with a special interest in art and spirituality.
The judges said they were impressed by the ways the artist explores ideas of scarification and ceremonial languages of Aboriginal peoples into the work.
“Cicatrix, and the artist’s practice, resonates with the themes of this prize but also has the potential to expand how contemporary audiences engage with the themes of spirituality, belief and religion in our contemporary Australian context,” they added.
The Blake Prize is one of Australia’s longest-standing and most prestigious art prizes. It is a biennial event that engages local and international contemporary artists in conversations on the broader experience of spirituality, religion and belief.
Two other Australian artists were awarded prizes on March 26.
Katy B Plummer of Annandale NSW took out the Established Artist Residency prize for her interactive audio-visual multi-platform work WE ARE ALL ASTONISHINGLY WISE. Plummer’s work features a good-natured oracle that interacts with the audience – holding up poetic texts and a QR code that, when scanned, offers possible interpretations of the text by two Diviners. As a part of her prize, Katy receives a residency and solo exhibition at Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre.
Queens Park WA resident Sakinah Alatas was awarded the Emerging Artist Prize for her work “Qadarullah” (Divine decree), an introspective piece that uses a Muslim prayer mat to explore the artist’s feelings of surrendering to God’s will after losing her mother and giving birth in the same week. Alatas receives $6,000 as a part of her prize and her work has been acquired for the Liverpool City Council Collection.
67th Blake Prize exhibition
Free entry – and runs until May 22
More info: www.casulapowerhouse.com