The biennial Mandorla Art Award for contemporary religious art is Australia’s most significant thematic Christian art prize since its inception in 1985, with entrants in the running for a share in $42,000.
This year artists were invited to interpret a quotation from the Book of Revelations:
‘And then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.’ – Revelations 21:1-2
From 40 finalists, Perth artist Mikaela Castledine has won the $25,000 (acquisitive) St John of God Health Care Prize with her interpretation of the excerpt in her work God is in the House. The judges commented that the piece is a beautifully crafted, taking ordinary found objects and turning them into the sacred. The humble materials of glass, beads and thread have been transformed into a miniature ‘sacred city’. The forms are clearly recognisable as ecclesiastical but from a range of different faiths. Castledine says that the work was evolved from a 2015 trip to Burma, where her mother had been born, and after visiting Egypt, India, and Barcelona in recent years, the artist realised that religious buildings in these disparate countries shared similarities.
‘I wanted to make a cathedral out of ordinary things,’ states Castledine. ‘I wanted to transform or transfigure them into something greater than themselves, which I think is what religion is all about.’
This year’s judges were Anne Ryan, Curator at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Dr Ric Spencer, Curator at the Fremantle Art Centre, and Jarrod McKenna, Teaching Pastor at Cornerstone Church and co-founder of #LoveMakesAWay. Ryan stated that ‘We find the work is beautifully crafted, it uses all very humble objects, found objects which have been turned through the artistic process into something quite extraordinary.’
A further three awards were presented at the official opening night on Friday 1 June. For the first time, painting was celebrated with a new prize, the inaugural Patricia Toohey Painting Prize (valued at $5,000), which was awarded to Julie Davidson for her work And I Saw (after John Martin). The circular oil-and-resin painting depicts the Apostle John as a contemporary backpacker, inspired by British artist John Martin who had painted massive apocalyptic imaginative compositions.
Two highly commended prizes valued at $5000 each were also presented. Far North Queensland artist, Brian Robinson, was highly commended for his work Moving with the Rhythm of the Stars. The monochrome linocut depicts star constellations of importance to Indigenous people, paying homage to his Torres Strait Islander and Malaysian heritage. Simon and Naomi McGrath were also highly commended for their collaborative piece The First Earth- Sickness and Death, which was created from radiology scans printed on a Perspex light box, inspired by the many scans Naomi collected through years of chronic pain and a diagnosis of cancer.
The People’s Choice Award of $2000 will be announced at the opening of the first leg of the touring program at New Norcia Museum and Art Gallery at 2pm on Saturday 7 July. The finalists’ exhibition is currently on display at Turner Galleries until 30 June. A selection of works will then tour to New Norcia Museum and Art Gallery, St John of God Health Care and St Mary’s Cathedral Perth.