Spiritual art prize to enlighten

Tara Watson

Reviving an old tradition, the Mandorla Art Award celebrates works exploring thematic reflections of Christian scripture.
Spiritual art prize to enlighten

2014 winning work 'Untitled' by Paul Kaptein, image courtesy of Mandorla Art Award

Art that responds to Biblical text is an old and venerable tradition. The Mandorla Art Award (MAA) brings the opportunity to Australian artists with a biannual prize, evoking the Mandorla, the almond-shaped halo used in medieval images around of Jesus or Mary.

The next prize, to be awarded in 2016, will provide a  $42,000 prize pool for  artists who produces work on the theme of The Resurrection.

Angela McCarthy, Chairperson of MAA, said Mandorla was one of a kind among Australia’s contemporary art prizes. Unlike the Blake Art Prize, which has a broad interpretation of religion and spirituality, the MAA follows the more traditional approach of Western art.

 ‘It’s Australia’s most prestigious religious art award that is based on a scriptural theme. So that means that artists are given a theme and they are asked to interpret that theme. This off course has been something that Western art has done for almost 2,000 years,’ said McCarthy. ‘Where a church or religious body requires the artist to give an understanding in a visual form of what the scriptures are saying’.

Works will be exhibited as part of the prize, with the possibility of the financial gain and further commissions for Christian communities as well as being exhibited in the New Norcia Gallery in Western Australia, with works defined by quotations from the Bible.

‘The theme for this year is ‘The Resurrection’. There is not just one reference to that in the scriptures, there are at least sixty, so there are many ways an artist can interpret that for us. We are running forums to enable artists to workshop these ideas and do the job of interpreting in a visual sense,’ said McCarthy.

Submission and exhibition dates for the 2016 award will be revealed following the prize launch on 4 February, 2015.

The criteria for selections will be focused towards addressing the theme and the quality of the art. Artists do not have to be of a particular faith to enter, as participating artists are simply requested to interpret the theme in their own way.

‘When we ask artists to do these works, you don’t have to be Christian to do it. You don’t have to be a committed worshipping Christian to do Christian art. We are looking for artists to reinterpret the themes for us visually, so we want really good artists to engage in these ideas,’ said McCarthy.

For more information visit Mandorla Art Award

About the author

Tara Watson is a Melbourne journalist & artsHub writer. Follow her on Twitter @TarasWatson