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Poetical ribs take religious art prize

Shoufay Derz, a 24-year-old Sydney art student, has won this year's $10,000 Australian Catholic University-sponsored Blake prize for religious art for a work inspired by the Sufi poetry of ancient Persia.

The final-year student at the College of Fine Arts in Sydney was awarded the prize for a series of prints titled Linking Back (Part 1). It is the first major prize Derz has won and puts her in the company of previous Blake winners including John Coburn, George Gittoes, Donald Friend and Justin O'Brien, who won the inaugural prize in 1951 also at the age of 24.

Derz told The Australian that she did not come from a religious background and was still working out what spirituality meant to her. Her work uses digitally manipulated photography, with images that resemble the bones of a rib-cage superimposed on a black reflective background.

The aim, she said, was for the viewer to be drawn into a state of contemplation similar to the meditation in the Sufi poetry that was written around the 13th century.

The Blake prize was founded by a group in Melbourne including a Catholic priest, an architect, a lawyer and a Jewish businessman in an effort to raise the standard of contemporary religious art and to cross religious boundaries.

"The Blake Prize provides a unique opportunity for Australian artists to share the meaning of religion with art lovers," said Australian Catholic University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Peter Sheehan.

"Sponsoring the Blake Prize is an important part of the University's engagement with the broader community," he said. "ACU National seeks to develop in its students a sense of the sacred in life and a respect for the spiritual and personal values of others."

More than 300 entries were received for this year's prize, with 81 chosen for display at Sydney University's Sir Hermann Black Gallery. The works will tour regional NSW and Victoria.

Included in the exhibition are traditional depictions of religious scenes to more contemporary works such as Barry Tate's The Apparition which consists of a curtain of gold disks lit up to reveal the image of the Virgin Mary.

ACU National sponsors Blake Prize (ACU National)
Poetical ribs take religious art prize (The Australian)

The Blake Prize
Sir Hermann Black Gallery
ACU National Gallery@Strathfield

13 Nov 2003