Artistic merit only part of the picture: judge looking for heart and soul

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Artistic merit only part of the picture: judge looking for heart and soul

As one of the three judges determining the overall winner of Palliative Care Australia’s art competition this year, Anzara Clark is clear about what she’ll be looking for. It’s something more than technical brilliance, inspired composition or colour mastery.

“The first thing I want is for something to jump out of the work and grab your heart and give it a little tweak,” says Anzara, who won the competition last year.

“I’ll be looking for a soul and a heart and an emotional connection in the work. A poignancy or emotional expression that relates to death and dying; that is where the artworks will speak. Then I’ll be looking at other artistic merits, tucked in behind that.”

She says while some artists may be inspired by personal experiences linked to the death of a loved one, others may find “visual poetry” in stories that have touched them.

Anzara Clark.

Anzara says this year’s theme, ‘Connection with Community’, also needs to be evident in the work. She says the theme reflects that death is a social event, rather than a medical event. While an obvious interpretation would be to focus on the importance of community supporting people through loss, the flip side is how destructive community can be if it’s not supportive or invalidates personal emotions and experiences.

“Part of what this art competition is about is turning around the ignorance and lack of support into a response that is nurturing,” she says.

“Anyone who has died has been part of a community, so how do we maintain their presence and gifts to the community after they have died? I think that is very important for people who have lost someone in very sad and tragic circumstances. Even if the body is not there, the memory and the relationship lives on.”

Anzara’s winning 2016 entry, titled Christening Shroud, was a finely embroidered traditional christening gown made in honour of her grandson Cody, who died in utero. The gown was made of finely embroidered Japanese paper in a style adapted for burial.

Anzara encourages fellow artists to give themselves time to work through the emotions that may arise from the experiences they are working to represent.

“It is a beautiful opportunity to extend your own perspectives, experiences and vision,” she says.

“If you need to step back and do a bit of grieving, and have a breath, give yourself a space to do that, so you are honouring the process rather than perhaps just feeling a bit battered by it.”

Entrants need to provide a high-resolution photograph of their artwork, which can be a painting, drawing, photograph or object. They must also provide a 100-word explanation of how their artwork relates to the ‘Connection with Community’ theme.

The overall winner, to be judged by Anzara and award-winning artists Ashley Fiona and Margaret Ambridge, will receive $1000 in prize money. So too will the people’s choice winner, who will be selected through an online voting process. The recipient of the Palliative Care Australia prize will see their artwork featured on marketing and promotional materials.

The competition closes on July 31 and winners will be announced in late August.

To enter, and for more details, visit the Dying to Talk website