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Canberra artists top the Gallipoli Art Prize

Winner Luke Cornish with Pity of War. Photo: Cynthia Sciberras

Two Canberra artists have scooped the pools in the 2024 Gallipoli Art Prize with the announcement on Wednesday that Luke Cornish has won the $20,000 first prize and Kate Stevens has won highly commended.

Cornish, better known in Canberra as ELK, has won with his work The Pity of War, depicting a woman and a hooded figure huddled together wearing gas masks.

He describes the work as “a contemporary reinterpretation of Michelangelo’s iconic La Pieta, reimagined to convey the profound sorrow experienced by mothers who have lost their children to the ravages of war.”

The Pity of War, he says, “serves as a poignant reminder of the futility of violence and the urgent need for peace, encouraging reflection on the true cost of war and the imperative of compassion and understanding in our world.”

Cornish is best known for his irreverent brand of photo realistic stencil art.

In 2012 he was the first stencil artist to become a finalist in the Archibald Prize with his portrait of Father Bob McGuire and since that he has been an Archibald finalist three times, including this year.

Growing up in Canberra, Cornish worked as a sign writer and labourer before taking up stencil art as a hobby in the early-2000s. He has made multiple visits to Syria, Lebanon and Iran. In early 2017 he co-founded the For Syria’s Children charity organisation, raising funds for Syrian children affected by conflict.

Witness, by Kate Stevens

Kate Stevens, whose exhibition Occupied, of oil paintings depicting war-torn Gaza, was in CityNews’s top five arts picks for 2023, was highly commended for her work, Witness, a portrait of Dusty Miller, whistleblower and former SAS medic who served with Australia’s Special Forces in Afghanistan and who gave testimony to the IGADF Afghanistan war crimes inquiry.

Now in its 19th year, the $20,000 Gallipoli Art Prize, hosted by the Gallipoli Memorial Club, invites artists to respond to the broad themes of loyalty, respect, love of country, courage, comradeship, community, peace and freedom as expressed in the Gallipoli Memorial Club’s creed.

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