Refugees, asylum seekers, soldiers, and the homeless were depicted in many of the 59 works featured at this year’s exhibition. It opened at Australian Catholic University’s McGlade Gallery, Strathfield with an awards ceremony on Friday, March 17.
The religious art prize is open to students in Years 7 to 12 at schools within the Archdiocese of Sydney. The theme for the 2017 prize was a quote from Pope Francis: “A little mercy makes the world less cold and more just”.
It has been a fantastic response to the theme.
The exhibition’s curator Diane Merrilees said the mercy theme had allowed students to respond to current affairs. Many of the 59 artworks included in the exhibition represented the plight of the homeless and refugees.
“It has been a fantastic response to the theme,” she said. “There were so many wonderful works entered and not enough prizes for them. Because they are so different, they each have their own beauty.”
The Prize winners:
- Brian Jordan Award
St Ursula’s College Kingsgrove Year 12 graduate Jessica Saify received the Brian Jordan Award with $1000 prize money for her work Hereafter, an exploration of life after death made of perspex, plastic, feathers and white paint, and suspended with fishing line.
“It was a long process and there was a lot of trial and error,” Jessica said of the sculpture which was also her HSC Visual Arts major work.
“It’s meant to represent the afterlife and a body drifting in clouds suspended. I feel that it is showing mercy just be being at peace.”
- Monsignor Tony Doherty Award
St Ursula’s College Kingsgrove Year 12 graduate Lavinia Mahoney received the Monsignor Tony Doherty Award with $500 prize money for Threads & Laces, a tribute to her grandmother who migrated from Lebanon. The detailed work includes a book that features hand-stitched textiles and complements family portraits sketched with pencil and charcoal.
“Everything in the book was her threads and laces because she was into sewing and textiles,” Lavinia said.
“I wanted to create something that showed her journey from Lebanon to Australia, then raising a family. I think the theme of mercy is a good theme. It links up to every drawing in a different way and shows mercy in everyday life.”
- Executive Directors Award
Piper’s work, titled Everyday Heroes, featured portraits of Australians including a nurse, refugee and lifeguard created with oil paints and framed in gold leaf halos. She received $1000 for herself and $1000 for her school. As with past winners of this award, her work will now hang at Sydney Catholic Schools head office in Leichhardt.
Piper said she was encouraged by her teaches to enter her paintings, also her HSC Visual Arts major work, in the Clancy Prize because they fit the mercy theme.
“What I wanted to convey was the everyday people who go unrecognized in society for the good things that they do,” she said.
“For example a doctor will get a lot of praise and thanks for what they do whereas the nurses who are working such long and often unpaid hours often don’t get the same recognition. It’s pretty exciting to see it on the gallery walls.”
Executive Director of Sydney catholic Schools Dr Dan White presented Piper with the award.
“It is always an honour to celebrate great artistic talent with the young people whose spirit and imagination can create something as beautiful as the artworks we were privileged to witness on opening night,” he said.
- ACU School of Education Awards
Brigidine College Randwick Year 12 graduate Nina Gordon received one of three awards sponsored by Australian Catholic University’s School of Education for her series of paintings titled We’ve Boundless Plains to Share. The work features paintings of Nina’s mother and grandparents who were refugees from East-Timor, escaping the violence that lasted more than two decades after Indonesia’s invasion of the country in 1975.
“Pope Francis’ words used for the theme relate to asylum seekers and refugees because in today’s society there is a lot of stigma going on, especially with Trump. My grandparents came to Australia, but people today don’t have the privilege to do that. Instead they go through the process of offshore processing.”
De La Salle Catholic College Ashfield Year 11 student Jaren Velasco received one of three awards sponsored by Australian Catholic University’s School of Education for his work Ang Banal na Pamiliya. The colourful wire sculpture is a representation of the Holy Family.
“I used soft metal wires and spray painted them,” he said. “It’s an amazing theme this year. I believe sometimes we get submerged in everyday 21st century living and lose sight of the importance of family and loved ones. Jesus, Joseph and Mary, as a family, endured some circumstances most families cannot imagine. However all they needed was their trust and love of God and respect for one another.”
- ACU School of Arts Awards
Their small-scale sculpture, Compassionate Creatures, features a series of created fabric animals painted in bright hues to represent the kindness evident in everyday actions. One of the four prize judges, Sr Rosemary Crumlin, described the artwork as interesting and alive.
“Mercy is an evocative term for a lot of people and there are many different interpretations of it,” she said. “It’s really about a respect for the whole of life – for the people who are homeless and refugees certainly, but also for the beauty and worthwhileness of the small things that you don’t always think about or acknowledge.”
Year 9 students from Trinity Catholic College Auburn were the youngest prize winners of the night with a collaborative painting they completed while in Year 8 at the schools Regent’s Park Campus. Judges described the work as sophisticated.
The group of six students followed in the footsteps of Italian painter Caravaggio to record Septem Actus Misericordiae – the Seven Acts of Mercy – on canvas.
Swapping Business Studies for Visual Arts one week into her HSC year has paid off for Veronica Samano. The Mary Mackillop Catholic College Wakeley Year 12 graduate received another of the School of Arts awards.
The white-washed sculpture of a boat covered with children’s shoes is a reminder of the plight of those refugees who drowned seeking asylum on the date that has become the title of her work. Veronica, 18, said September 4th 2015 was also her HSC major work, thought it fit well with the mercy theme of the art prize.
“The shoes are a representation of the Syrian children who are fleeing on unstable boats,” she said. “I painted it all white to show the pureness of the children who are passing away. Mercy is also having hope and faith that these people find hope and the way to make it to another place and not lose their lives.”