Exploring the ineffable

Australian artists are increasingly using their practice to examine religious and spiritual themes.
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Image: Abdul Abdullah’s I want to hold your hand (detail), a finalist in the 62nd Blake Prize (2013). 

From Neolithic cave paintings and statuary, to the gothic architecture of the Middle Ages and the masterpieces of the Renaissance, art has long been associated with religious expression and representations of, or tributes to, the divine.

In the 20th century, as western culture became more secular, the connection between art and religion seemed to wane. Now, however, that trend is reversing, with more artists expressing renewed interest in exploring religious themes – and the intersection of religion and society – in their work.

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Richard Watts is ArtsHub's National Performing Arts Editor; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on Three Triple R FM, and serves as the Chair of La Mama Theatre's volunteer Committee of Management. Richard is a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and was awarded the status of Melbourne Fringe Living Legend in 2017. In 2020 he was awarded the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards' Facilitator's Prize. Most recently, Richard was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Green Room Awards Association in June 2021. Follow him on Twitter: @richardthewatts