ARTIST Hil Van Dijk is a finalist in this year's prestigious art competition, The Blake Prize, and finds out tomorrow whether he is a winner.
It's a thrill for the Rainbow Flat man, who had thought his work, "and Jesus wept" (pictured right), was too controversial.
"I'm actually surprised they hung it."
The Blake Prize is one of Australia's longest standing and most prestigious art prizes, which explores the religious and the spiritual through art.
About 900 entries were received and 73 finalists selected.
Hil's artwork is "a statement of the hypocritical nature of the leaders of our church who condemn homosexuals and others yet disregard the basic supposition of the Bible, calling for the protection of children. The enemy I see wears the cloak of decency, all non-believers talking in the name of religion."
The work is shaped like a cross and features portraits of George Pell (Australian cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church and Archbishop of Sydney) and Peter Jensen (retired Australian Anglican bishop. He was the Archbishop of Sydney and Metropolitan of the Province of New South Wales in the Anglican Church of Australia until his retirement in July this year).
Down the middle are excerpts from the Bible, featuring the words of Jesus saying that anyone who hurts little children should have a millstone fastened around his neck and thrown into the sea, as well as writings from Ezekiel saying the shepherds, our leaders, are leading us astray.
Hil says he loves his religion but doesn't agree with what the Catholic Church is doing.
"They're not even defrocking themselves...they say they know of it but what do they do? They pass that person onto another parish.
"They say it will disrupt the church (to defrock them) but this is disrupting the church even more.
"Don't we live in a lovely country where I can say that...you should be allowed to say things you don't agree with."
Hil is passionate about what is happening in the world around him and has found his art an ideal way to express his views on many subject matters.
He is a bricklayer and stonemason by trade but art has always been a huge part of his life.
As a child growing up in Sydney, his godfather was artist Ian Van Wieringen, who would spend time with art heavyweights Brett Whiteley and John Firth-Smith.
Hil met them at an early age and they enthusiastically encouraged him to paint and draw.
"It really inspired me.
"I loved doing it and just kept working at it."
Hil moved to the Manning about 15 years ago.
His work has been exhibited in New South Wales, Victoria and even New York and has been involved in numerous art shows and prizes.
He points out he has painted many vases over the years (which sold and were popular) but had started to feel trapped by the labels he felt others were putting on him.
"It took a bit of guts to walk away from paintings of vases.
"It's really now starting to come through a bit.
"I'm making a statement through art as well as doing these beautiful things."
His Blake Prize entry was created using oils with a wax medium to paint the portraits, then hand writing the Bible excerpts with a pen and using bricklayers blue to make the lines so it looked like a page.
He is "absolutely excited" to be a finalist, especially as its the first time he's got that type of work together, it's the first time he's entered and the first time it has been hung.
"It's come together over a bit of time. It all sort of gelled"
Hil will be joined by Claire Skehan for the announcement of the Blake Prize winners in Sydney tomorrow before the work of finalists is exhibited at Galleries UNSW at the College of Fine Arts (COFA) between October 18 and November 16.
Finalists are vying for three awards, including: The 62nd Blake Prize ($25,000), The MUA Blake Prize for Human Justice ($5000), The John Coburn Emerging Artist Award ($5000).