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Indian artist Yardena Kurulkar Wins The $35,000 Blake Prize for 2016

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Sydney, Australia: Kiersten Fishburn, Director of Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre (CPAC) today announced Yardena Kurulkar from Mumbai, India has won the 64th Blake Art Prize for her work, KenosisThe Blake Art Prize is Australia’s longest standing and most prestigious art prize which encourages conversation about spirituality and religion through art.   This year there were 594 entries and 80 finalists.

Yardena Kurulkar receives $35,000 for winning the Blake Art PrizeDamien Shen is the winner of the Emerging Artist Award, which is $6000 for the acquisitive prize for his work On the fabric of the Ngarrindjeri body and Robert Hague for his work This Messenger has won the inaugural Blake Residency program – a one-month residency at CPAC and a solo exhibition which will be unveiled at the 2018 Blake exhibition program.

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Yardena says of her work: I create moments of confrontations between life and death. My works are acts of surrender to the inevitability of an end and are presented as part of a cycle of continuous regeneration, whereby discovering my own mortality and contemplating on our collective fear of death. In ‘Kenosis, 2015, I use a terracotta replica (made with the help of 3D printing) of my own heart. The heart is the first organ to develop in a foetus. I use water to portray the passage of time and also as an agent of purging. I let the viewer see what remains of this union – a heart-shaped something, a mere lump of clay.  Pausing to reflect on the shape shifting ability of human nature and probably time itself I shun the need to regenerate, rather focusing on the reconstruction that human anatomy endures. This work is an attempt to capture the erosion, resurrection and elusiveness of human life.

CPAC Director Kiersten Fishburn said: “There was an extremely high calibre of entrants for the Blake Prize by some of the world’s most regarded artists. I congratulate Yardena Kurulkar. Her work was a unanimous choice by our judges .

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There is something primal and rich about the use terracotta and the form of the heart – for me the work has many allusions from the Venus of Willendorf and her fecund life giving form, to our common and universal understanding that eventually for all of us our corporeal form decays and ends.  The work is a moment of both life and death. This year’s Blake Prize is one of the best in its history – we have so much diversity from traditional art techniques to video works.”

Judges for the 64th Blake Art Prize were Reverend Tim Costello, CEO of World Vision Australia, artist Leanne Tobin and Professor Amanda Lawson, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts at the University of Wollongong.

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CPAC is the new permanent home for the Blake Art Prize and will complement the rich community, cultural diversity and the vibrant arts scene in Western Sydney.

The Blake Prize exhibition is presented free of charge and will open to the public on 13 February until 24 April 2016 at Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre. Following the exhibition at CPAC The Blake Prize will then tour to a number of galleries around Australia.  For more information: http://www.casulapowerhouse.com

Statement by Yardena Kurulkar, 64th Blake Prize winner:

Yardena says of her work: I create moments of confrontations between life and death. My works are acts of surrender to the inevitability of an end and are presented as part of a cycle of continuous regeneration, whereby discovering my own mortality and contemplating on our collective fear of death. In harnessing the inherent characteristics of unfired clay I am able to demonstrate my conceptual concerns. The approach first surfaced in my work when I was living in Canada a few years ago. The harsh climate of the region accelerated the evaporation of moisture from the clay and frequently caused sculpture to crack and fracture. The unintentional, and unstoppable, decay sparked comparisons in my mind with human flesh that allowed me to address a long-standing preoccupation with death. My material of choice-water and clay-brought up associations with a range of religious rituals and beliefs as well. Using both materials, I create intensely personal rituals that dissolved the boundaries between my life and my art. In ‘Kenosis, 2015, I use a terracotta replica (made with the help of 3D printing) of my own heart. The heart is the first organ to develop in a foetus. I use water to portray the passage of time and also as an agent of purging. I let the viewer see what remains of this union- a heart-shaped something, a mere lump of clay.  Pausing to reflect on the shape shifting ability of human nature and probably time itself I shun the need to regenerate, rather focusing on the reconstruction that human anatomy endures. This work is an attempt to capture the erosion, resurrection and elusiveness of human life.

ABOUT THE BLAKE PRIZE

The Blake Prize was established in the 1950s by a Jesuit priest and a Jewish lawyer who hoped to encourage artists to create significant works of art with religious content. More than sixty years since it was founded, the Blake is still one of the most respected, diverse and open‐ended art prizes in Australia today. Religion remains a powerful subject of our time and one especially important in Australia where we have people from over 150 different birthplaces, 140 languages spoken and an equally diverse range of religious backgrounds.

The Blake Prize is designed to reflect the religious diversity of Australia. It is widely respected for attracting artists from a diverse range of backgrounds and ages. Finalists range from leading contemporary practitioners to emerging and self‐taught artists. The Blake has a fascinating history and is well known for attracting a consistently high calibre of entrants and often controversy.

The Blake Prize is committed to contemporary art practice, as well as cultural diversity and human justice. It is designed to spark conversations around one of the most contentious issues of our time: spirituality and religion. It has inspired complex debates about faith, its history, personal meaning, and community. The Blake Prize is about continuing to challenge contemporary artists to provide thoughtful, considered responses to the state of the world today.

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