Phoenix Prize for Spiritual Art

Phoenix Prize for Spiritual Art

The Phoenix Prize for spiritual art is a biennial open art prize with a value of AUD$5,000, based at the Australian National University, awarded first in 2005. The exhibition is at the ANU School of Art Gallery.

History of the Phoenix Prize

The Phoenix Prize for spiritual art arose from the winding up of the Christian Media Association ACT Inc., an incorporated body in the Australian Capital Territory, that for some 30 years had been a forum for the Christian church organisations of the ACT Churches Council to provide a single voice in the media, principally to provide video advertisements on local, commercial television channels that were played in the nature of public service announcement.

In 2003, the committee of the Christian Media Association ACT Inc. realised that its goals and purposes were generally being served by its constituent organisations, and that free-to-air television was becoming difficult to source and fund. Accordingly, the committee decided to use its remaining funds to establish an ongoing cultural prize for artists, managed by the ANU. The basis for funding was that the prize could be funded for some four years during which the ANU would seek additional donations to create what should be, in effect, a perpetual prize. It is intended to be complementary to the Blake Prize for Religious Art.

Aside from the name, the Phoenix Prize for spiritual art denoting in part that "the prize rises from the ashes of the donating organisation", it also incorprates that spirituality is to be the point of the art; what point is being made by the artists is left to them. It should also be noted that the Christian Media Association ACT Inc. did "not" proscribe any art medium or manifestation of spirituality and, indeed, the inaugural competition contained works of painting, sculpture, installation, and weaving, depicting motifs clearly incorporating from Christianity, tarot, homosexuality, and the spirituality of Australian Aborigines.

Competition and Winners


The inaugural (2005) Phoenix Prize competition attracted around 150 entrants. These were judged down to 36 exhibited works. The Prize was judged by Professor David Williams (Director of the ANU School of Art), Bronwen Sandland (School of Art Gallery Program Manager) and a nominee of the National Gallery of Australia. The prize was awarded at a gala ceremony on 6 April 2005; the gallery exhibition is 7 April-24 April 2005.

The 2005 winner was Blaide Lallemand for her installation, "Light of Heart" (2003/05) [ [] ACT, May 2005, accessed 19 April 2007] an interactive performance installation with variable dimensions.
*The participants in the installation read instructions near a door then enter a small room of about 4m square that had been blacked out; a bowl of water (a large, parabolic satellite receiving dish) is near the far wall, onto which is played a beam of white light at such an angle as to have a reflection cast onto the far wall; there are five pedestals of varying heights in front of the bowl, each topped with a plastic, hand-sized, coloured blob that is intended to be placed over the participant's heart; the blob contains a transducer and radio transmitter that sends the sounds of the heart to one of five radio receivers attached to audio amplifiers that plays this sound into the room, additionally activating a plunger-transducer at the edge of the bowl that ripples the water surface in the same manner as the sound of the heart; "the surface of the water, and the reflection of the surface, show interacting ripples reflecting the heart-beat of the participants".


The exhibition was from 4-28 April 2007, with the announcement and official opening on the first night [ [ Exhibition; Phoenix Prize for Spiritual Art 2007] , accessed 19 April 2007] . There were 173 entries, of which 38 were selected for the Prize exhibition by the judges: Gordon Bull, Head of School, ANU School of Art; David Broker, Director, Canberra Contemporary Art Space; and, Dr Elizabeth Findlay, Lecturer, Art History, ANU School of Humanities.

The winner for 2007 [ [ The Art of Woman blog 05/04/07 09:31 - Phoenix Prize for Spiritual Art 2007] , accessed 19 April 2007] was Peter L. Smith (artist) [ [ Peter Smith: Phoenix Prize 2007] accessed 19 April 2007 ] [] for "Emergence 1: The Transfiguration" (2006), a wall installation from white cable ties knitted together forming a cirle on the ground and growing up the adjacent wall into a widening fan shape. Size: 315 x 400 x 120 cm. The work has overtones of a crucifix growing from the ground, along with ambiguous sexual overtones.


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