Casula Powerhouse Announces The Winners Of The 68th Blake Prize For Art And Poetry

Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre (CPAC) congratulates the extraordinary artists and poet whom the judges have selected, from among 600 entries and 57 finalists, as the winners of the three art prizes and one poetry prize that together constitute the 68th Blake Prize.

The winners will be publicly announced at 3 PM on May 18 at the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, 1 Powerhouse Rd, Casula NSW.

The Blake Prize is one of Australia’s longest standing and most prestigious art prizes for local and international contemporary artists who explore spirituality and religion. The 68th Blake Prize exhibition is on display at Casula Powerhouse until July 7, 2024.

  • The winner of the 68th Blake Art Prize, with its $35,000 cash prize, is Shireen Taweel.

Taweel is a Sydney based multidisciplinary artist whose practice draws on speculative futurisms and alternative histories and involves artisan techniques applied in conceptual ways. Taweel’s works have been widely exhibited in notable institutions, most notably In the Inner Bark of Trees at SAVVY Contemporary in Berlin (2023). For more detailed information on the winners, their works, and judges’ comments please see the attachment.

Taweel’s winning installation, titled Shoe Bathers, conjures up the sensory relationship between body, mind, and religion in a hammam. A hammam is a place of public bathing associated with the Islamic world, which are known to serve both civic and religious functions.

The installation includes two timber packing crates stacked with aromatic olive oil soaps. These hand-made soaps draw the mind to the softened marble walls of the hammam and invite audiences to consider how the walls and stones of the hammam have been shaped by centuries of water passing across contours of bather’s bodies.

Resting upon the soaps are two pairs of copper sculptures which mimic bathing shoes. The shoes are pierced and engraved with heritage motifs and illustrations of bathing practices. The fragrant ambience of this installation draws attention to the transformation which often takes place during the sensory act of bathing rituals.

  • The winner of the Blake Emerging Artist Prize, with its $6,000 cash prize: Tina Stefanou

Tina Stefanou is a Greek-Australian artist, performer, and researcher living on unceded Wurundjeri country in Wattle Glen, Victoria. She draws on her background as a vocalist to work with and across a diverse range of mediums.

Stefanou’s single-channel video work, with sound, Backbreeding, 2023. It intertwines vocal workshops, community rituals, and farm practices to delve into the significance of grain and wool within a Wheatbelt community in rural Western Australia.

  • The winner of the Blake Established Artist Residency and Exhibition is Yhonnie Scarce.

    As part of her prize, the artist receives a residency and solo exhibition at Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre.

Yhonnie Scarce, a Kokatha and Nukunu artist based in Fitzroy (VIC). Her interdisciplinary practice explores the political and aesthetic nature of glass and photography, often referencing the ongoing effects of colonisation and removal on Aboriginal people. Scarce’s work is seen in the collections of many of the world’s most prestigious museums, including the Tate Gallery London, National Gallery of Victoria, and Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney, among others.

Scarce’s installation work, Koonibba, South Australia, includes 40 hand-blown glass bush yams presented in front of an image screen-printed on calico and reflects on the introduction of the Christian Missions in South Australia.

  • The winner of the Blake Poetry Prize, with its $5,000 cash prize is Coco X. Huang.Coco X. Huang is a Chinese-Australian writer, musician, and scientist. She creates interdisciplinary works that challenge and extend conventional forms. Huang has performed at the National Young Writers’ Festival (2023) and Sydney Festival (2021), was shortlisted for the Woollahra Digital Literary Award (2020) and received a Faber Writing Academy scholarship (2020).

    Her winning poem is titled ‘Three Lessons.’ It is written in three parts this poem mixes both the written and visual forms to invite the reader to consider the ways in which ancestries, spiritualties, and cultures are woven together across time and space.

    The Blake Poetry Prize is administered by WestWords. WestWords is dedicated to the creating, sharing, and reading of stories in Western Sydney.

About the Blake Prize

The Blake Prize dates back almost three-quarters of a century to 1951, making it one of Australia’s longest standing and most prestigious prizes in either art or poetry. The Blake Prize’s namesake is William Blake, a poet, artist, and visionary. William Blake worked to create change in the social order and in the mind in an 18th-Century Europe that embraced racism, sexism, and slavery, and wrote that “all men are alike (tho’ infinitely various).” The Poetry Foundation considers him one of the greatest visionaries among English poets.

Liverpool Mayor Ned Mannoun said, “The ratepayers of Liverpool are proud that the Blake Prize has been at home at our own Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre since 2016. Our community contains over 150 different nationalities, speaks more than 140 languages, and has an equally diverse range of faith backgrounds. That makes it the ideal location for a major arts prize.

“On behalf of Liverpool, I express heartfelt thanks to the team at CPAC, the judges and artists participating in the Blake Prize, to WestWords, and to all the visitors who will see the exhibition while it remains on display until 7 July.”

The panels of judges for the 68th Blake Prize are renowned for their contribution to the discourse of contemporary art, poetry and spirituality in Australia. The art prize judges are interdisciplinary artists and Worimi man Dean Cross, Director of UNSW Galleries and Curator of the 2024 Adelaide Biennial José Da Silva, and Professor in Religion within the School of Humanities at the University of Sydney Professor Jay Johnston FAHA.

The poetry prize judges are 2022 Blake Poetry Prize winner Simone King, successful writer of Mununjali and Dutch heritage Ellen van Neerven, and the widely published and award-winning poet and academic Peter Ramm.

The 68th Blake Prize exhibition will remain on display at Casula Powerhouse until 7 July 2024. Casula Powerhouse is a cultural facility of Liverpool City Council.

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