Richard Lewer wins works on paper prize - Art Collector

28 September 2010 | Richard Lewer has won Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery’s National Works on Paper Prize for a 150 centimetre tall portrait of a priest.

The gallery’s director, Jane Alexander, describes the work as “a powerful and, arguably, provocative work that pivots on the ambiguity of the subject”.

“We know from the artist that the work is a homage to the revered Father Keane, but the intensity of the menacing gaze and the slightly lop-sided grin exposing a 'mean set of chompers' are unsettling. This leaves open the opportunity to pose the awkward questions that resonate in contemporary society about the Catholic Church, priests and their abuse of children.”

Lewer adds: “I grew up in a religious household where the ritual of going to mass and completion of alter boy duties was held as important. This is a portrait of Father Keane, our family priest. I remember him as a stern but fair man who emigrated from Ireland in the 1970s. The priesthood has always intrigued me. Its seemingly solitary life is perhaps not unlike an artist's with faith being the fundamental part of both our existence. Priesthood is also about extremes, an idea commonly explored in my work, the priest and his dogma requires intense skill, discipline and training.”

“Father Keane is monumental in size and rendered to be almost soft focus, a memory, in quiet homage to a role model, normally we would see priest portraits for all the wrong reasons.”

Lewer was selected from a field that included Vernon Ah Kee, Kirsty Bruce, Eugene Carchesio, Fiona McMonagle and Ms & Mr.
To read more about Lewer’s recent work, read Australian Art Collector’s interview with him

Jane O'Sullivan

Above: Richard Lewer, Father Keane, 2009. Charcoal on museum rag board, 150 x 100cm. Courtesy: the artist

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