ACU creatives selected for prestigious Blake Prize

Two visual arts lecturers at ACU have been selected to present work at the Blake Prize, one of Australia’s most prestigious visual art awards.

First established in 1951, The Blake Prize has become a critically acclaimed showcase for contemporary artists who explore ideas of spirituality and religion in their work.

This year, the current director of the McGlade Gallery at ACU’s Strathfield campus and the outgoing director have been selected to present their artworks at the exhibition.

Dr Lachlan Warner was Director of the McGlade Gallery from 2006 to 2020 and won the coveted Blake Prize in 2001. He is now a sessional lecturer in Visual Arts.

Dr Tracey Clement began teaching in Visual Arts at ACU in 2020 and took on the role of Gallery Director in 2022. Dr Clement previously won a Blake Prize Established Artist Residency in 2018.

Dr Clement will exhibit an embroidered “drawing” which she has been working on for more than a year titled Impossible Numbers No.1: 3,000,000,000.

This number refers to the estimated three billion creatures that perished in the bushfires that raged across Australia during the summer of 2019-2020.

“The number of lives lost in these conflagrations is literally incomprehensible,” said Dr Clement.

“Since the beginning of time, we have used religion to try to make sense of the incomprehensible, the ineffable, the seemingly impossible. We use ceremonies shaped by these beliefs to honour the dead. Art has always been an integral part of these processes, as have time and quiet meditation.

“This embroidered scroll draws on these traditions. I spent around 500 hours stitching more than 15,000 squares.

“This work taps into the non-denominational ability of art to say what can only be felt, of repetitive labour to make manifest the incomprehensible, in order to make some kind of sense of impossible numbers; to memorialise incalculable loss.”

Dr Warner will show a suite of paintings titled 9 Enso Signs painted in Grave Soil.

“The 9 Enso signs are made with clay soil from both Trangie and Rookwood cemetery graves, with permissions. The colours come from particular spots, sorted, and retain different shades and textures. The reds are mostly from Trangie. The greys and yellows from Rookwood. The clay soil has been washed down to a slurry, sieved, settled to remove the rough ‘grog’, dried, pulverised and sifted to a light powder. The clay soil is then mixed with acrylic medium and a little water to make a paint-like emulsion,” Dr Warner said.


“The Enso sign is a calligraphic practice in the Zen/Chan tradition and used in related cultures. It is painted repeatedly as one lets go, with a clearer mind, spontaneously, with grace and simplicity.

“The closed circle suggests completeness and even the enlightened state of mind. The incomplete is open, about emptiness, death, the void, the unknown and the state of the unenlightened mind seeking in the void. It is also a symbol of possibility.

“The Enso is married with mortality in these works, from ashes to ashes and dust to dust, clay to clay, crazing as it dries. A mortality that is marked by a coloniser’s practice of burying the dead in sacred grounds.”

The 68th Blake Prize will feature the work of 58 artists, selected from more than 600 entries. The exhibition is free and open to the public at Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre from 11 May to 7 July.

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