The Mandorla Art Award for contemporary religious art is Australia’s most significant thematic Christian art prize, attracting some of the country’s finest artists since its 1985 inception.
Mandorla (MAN-dor-la) is an Italian word meaning almond. It refers to an almond-shaped halo or aura that we find around the images of Jesus or Mary in Christian art and particularly in icons. It represents the light that emanates from a divine being, or one very close to a divine being. Run by a dedicated committee of volunteers who oversee all aspects of the awards, the not-for-profit Mandorla does not receive any Government funding but does have DGR status. It, therefore, relies entirely on sponsors and the good will of individuals for its survival.
In addition to the main exhibition held in Perth, a selection of finalists will be exhibited at the famous New Norcia Museum and Art Gallery in the popular tourist destination of New Norcia, as St John of God Health Care campuses in the Perth area.
Past winners include John Coburn (1996); Nigel Hewitt (1991, 1992); Brian McKay (1986, 2002); and Julie Dowling (2000) who was named the most collectible artist in Australia shortly after her win. Another notable winner was the much beloved Western Australian artist, Michael Kane Taylor (2004). The 2012 winner was John Paul.
Sponsorship and patronage from St John of God Health Care, the Catholic, Anglican and Uniting churches, and the Benedictine monks of New Norcia makes Mandorla a truly ecumenical award.
The Mandorla Art Award offers artists and the public a new vision that is actually a very old vision, the place of the Christian religion in art. It is the fulfilment of a dream held by a small group of committed Christians, the Mandorla Centre of Inner Peace.
Wishing to balance the largely secular nature of most art seen in today’s galleries, the Mandorla Art Award Committee selects a particular theme or passage from the Bible, Old or New Testaments.
This unique approach among Australian religious art prizes invites artists to think laterally and with sensitivity by interpreting this in two- or three-dimensional works.
Each award sees around thirty works selected as finalists – artworks which challenge viewers to embrace diversity and to view the world through different perspectives and sensibilities.