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images (4)While many enthusiasts are enjoying their 3D printers to fabricate a wide range of fun things at the desktop from figurines to phone cases and tablet holders, many others today are also thanking the technology profusely as its more intricate applications have improved the quality of their lives, or even saved them. It has become the difference between life and death for a number of people who now have a new lease on life thanks to 3D printed prosthetics, 3D printed models of kidneys and livers too.

Now, the technology is being used to highlight the human heart—and in an award-winning way—delving into life and death from an artistic and philosophical viewpoint. The subject of our mortality is of course an ongoing theme in art, spanning numerous mediums—and centuries–but Yardena Kurulkar of Mumbai definitely arrived upon the theme via a unique route, observing how brutal, cold conditions can affect clay. As she worked in Canada, far from home one winter, she noticed how sculptures began to deteriorate as they lost their moisture altogether, resulting in cracks and a sort of stunning decay that she found deeply inspirational for her own work—Kenosis, 2015–which has just won the 64th Blake Art Prize.

“The unintentional and unstoppable decay sparked comparisons in my mind with human flesh, that allowed me to address a long-standing preoccupation with death,” says the artist of her work.

Using a very new and exciting fabrication technique to deal with subject matter as old as the ages, Kurulkar definitely catches the eye—and sparks curiosity—with her 3D printed hearts, allowed to erode in moisture to show the symbolism in life and eventual death.

“I use water to portray the passage of time and also as an agent of purging,” said Kurulkar. “I let the viewer see what remains of this union – a heart-shaped something, a mere lump of clay.”

To make it even more deeply personal, the heart depicted is a terracotta replica of Kurulkar’s.

“I create moments of confrontations between life and death,” she says. “My works are acts of surrender to the inevitability of the end. They are presented as part of a cycle of continuous regeneration … discovering my own mortality and contemplating our collective fear of death.”

“This work is an attempt to capture the erosion, resurrection and elusiveness of human life.”

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Damien Shen won the Emerging Artist Award and received $6,000 for his work, ‘On the Fabric of the Ngarrindjeri Body.’

This competition, and corresponding exhibition (indeed taking its name from artist William Blake), which deals with religious subjects of impact, is now held every other year and is popular among artists from all over the world. This year, there were 594 entrants from a total of seven countries. Judges were:

  • Tim Costello, CEO of World Vision Australia
  • Leanne Tobin, Indigenous artist
  • Amanda Lawson, Professor at University of Wollongong

Director of the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, Kiersten Fishburn, says the judges were unanimous in their decision—and the first-place artist was competing against some of the world’s most highly regarded artists.

“The work has many allusions, from the Venus of Willendorf, to our common and universal understanding that eventually our corporeal form decays and ends,” she says, and in congratulating Kurulkar, says that her work was a unanimous choice by the judges.

“There is something primal and rich about the use terracotta and the form of the heart,” said Fishburn. “The work is a moment of both life and death.”

Kurulkar was awarded an impressive $35,000 for her first-place win, while Damien Shen won the Emerging Artist Award and received $6,000 for his work On the Fabric of the Ngarrindjeri Body. Also, in a very exciting turn, Robert Hague will be appointed to the inaugural Blake Residency program–a one-month residency–and a solo exhibition at the Powerhouse for his work This Messenger.

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‘Kenosis, 2015’

Because this exhibition and competition is so well-known for provocative subject matter, sponsorship can be an issue, which was demonstrated last year when all of the sponsors pulled out. The exhibit was saved though by the Casula Powerhouse, siding with artists and their right to make statements regarding the world we live in. Casula Powerhouse also provided and increased the prize money given.

“This year’s Blake Prize is one of the best in its history – we have so much diversity from traditional art techniques to video works,” said Fishburn.

You can catch the exhibit, free to all, at Australia’s Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre until April 24th, after which it will travel throughout Australia. What do you think of the subject matter? Discuss in the 3D Printed Heart forum over at 3DPB.com.

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Robert Hague will be appointed to the inaugural Blake Residency program–a one-month residency–and a solo exhibition at the Powerhouse for his work, ‘Messenger.’

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