Survivor’s prized possession

ARTIST Hedy Ritterman has won a $5000 Human Justice Award as part of the 2014 Blake Prize for art exploring religious, spiritual and human justice themes.

Ritterman’s winning work is a photo titled Richard 2014 of a 94-year-old Polish-born Holocaust survivor named Richard whose prized possession was an old belt – his only personal item that survived the horrors of World War II when he was incarcerated in concentration camps.

“At first he was reluctant to talk about the Holocaust, but he realised as survivors were dying that it was important to keep the memory alive,” says Ritterman.

“Sadly, Richard died a few months ago, just weeks after we completed the photo shoot.”

Ritterman, who lives in Toorak, has been exhibiting in solo and group exhibitions since 1999 and was thrilled to win the prize.

“It’s a nice boost for my work,” says the artist who won first prize in the 2003 Linden Gallery postcard competition.

The winner of the main Blake Prize, valued at $25,000, is Melbourne-based artist Richard Lewer for his digital work, Worse Luck I am Still Here, a video animation of black-and-white drawings that tells the tragic love story of a Perth pensioner who survived a failed assisted-suicide pact with his chronically ill wife.

The Blake Poetry Prize valued at $5000 was won by Dave Drayton for his poem Threnodials and the John Coburn Emerging Artist Award ($5000) was won by Sydney-based artist Emily Sandrussi.

The prizes were announced in Sydney last month, but the board of the Blake Society (which administers the Blake Prize) said the 2014 prizes could be the last in the award’s 63-year history due to the lack of a major sponsor.

Blake Society chairman Dr Rod Pattenden says: “It is sad to note that due to lack of sponsorship it may be the last Blake. We are hoping to find a generous open-hearted sponsor to save this valuable cultural institution.”

For more information, visit www.blakeprize.com.au.

REPORT by Danny Gocs

PHOTO of Hedy Ritterman with her prize-winning photo Richard 2014. Photo: Suzie Ng