Last week I went along to the final incarnation of the Phoenix Prize for Spiritual Art at the School of Art. This award has been wildly popular over the last three years – artists see it as a chance to show in the beautiful SoFA gallery and to be in the running for a bit of extra dosh, helped by that fact that the definition of ‘spiritual art’ is so deliciously broad, if not entirely vague. Some people get a bit funny about the words ‘spiritual’ and ‘art’ when used together in the same sentence, but I like to go along with the following dictionary definitions of spiritual, thanks to my friend, the Collins English Dictionary: ‘relating to the spirit or the soul and not to the physical nature or matter; intangible’ and ‘having a mind or emotions of a high and delicately refined quality’. They pretty much cover everything.
Thematic aspects aside, the winner of the final prize was announced as none other than Kensuke Todo, Canberran sculptor extraordinaire, with his entry Loft. I have been a big fan of Kensuke’s ever since I first saw one of his sculptures at a CCAS exhibition in 2006. It caught me off guard, as, being a trained painter, I am the first to admit to being a little three-dimensionally challenged.
These minimal steel sculptures are seriously seductive. Masculine without being macho, cool, dark, sharp, slick and oh so edgy – this is the kind of thing I’ll buy for the foyer of my mansion. No, scrap that, I would get him to design my whole house.
Loft is a hulking staircase, suspended oddly sideways from the gallery wall, not taking you upwards but looming outwards. It’s like MC Escher brought to life, challenging both gravity and purposefulness.