Cameron Hayes – Blake Prize 2021

In News February 13, 2021

Image above: Cameron Hayes  Angry angels help Adam with the first dictionary  2020  oil on canvas  198 x 254 cm

Congratulations to Cameron Hayes who has been announced as a finalist in the Blake Prize.

The Blake Prize is one of Australia’s longest-standing and most prestigious prizes which encourages conversation about religion and spirituality through art and poetry. The exhibition is currently on display at the Casula Powerhouse Art Centre in Sydney, and is current until 11 April 2021. For more information, click here.

Cameron Hayes uses painting to tell stories. Characters from history, literature, TV and film fill his large-scale allegorical paintings invoking familiarity with the viewer before ushering them through a myriad of narrative directions. Utilising fiercely honest observational and academic-style research processes, he blends stories ripped from present-day headlines with Bosch-like visual grotesquerie, producing sophisticated compositions filled with charged contemporary themes: pollution, political corruption, economic inequality, social injustice and the general malaise of human behaviour.

Because in painting you are capturing just one moment in time, you have to progress the story using many different characters doing many different things at the same time and they have to imply a past and suggest a future within that movement.”

We very much look forward to Cameron’s upcoming solo exhibition at Australian Galleries Melbourne in April this year.

Genesis 2:20. On the 6th day of creation God – having just created everything in the universe except women – asked Adam to name everything he had created. The angels became jealous and asked God what was so special about Adam. God answered that only Adam, being partly made of matter, could conceive of limiting objects, experience, feelings ,etc. to words. And so, the process of turning souls into matter started on the 6th day of creation. While words made the world easier to understand, Adam converted the universe from a place of eternal souls, and thus condemned it to a time of expiration. Adam (mankind)  through language reduced the infinity and mystery of the universe into word-sized bits. Words sealed the possibility of objects and so made them mortal, language became the black hole of human experience. Without irony fellow dictionary-ist Samuel Johnson despaired that the poor without language were “doomed to live in the present “.

In Angry angels help Adam with the first dictionary the tree of knowledge becomes Adam’s word factory, at the top of the tree angels in the form of insects create words used to deceive and limit the people. At the bottom of the tree people are protesting and are trying to break into the word factory, they are unhappy with the words they have to describe themselves and their lives with. Rather than bringing understanding to and communion with the world, words – the first invention of mankind and the first form of Artificial Intelligence are tearing people apart, quite literally as children tear the father branded part of his body away from those who have criminal branded the other part of their father’s body. The certainty encouraged by words has people fighting over their right to call an alligator an alligator and not a crocodile, a tortoise isn’t a terrapin, a friend isn’t a bitch, a father isn’t a crook, a terrorist isn’t a son etc.

The pantomime of progress is seen in Angry angels help Adam with the first dictionary as a cow waits for new words/machines to be invented to find out what parts of his body will become useful to someone and so shorten his life, elephants are called pianos , birds are called music, and people are called cleaners, doctors or wives. Modernity in this place –the word-full  Garden of Eden is a time where we are defined by our usefulness to the altar of progress, it’s a time where the word comes first and the object – us – comes second. People here experience the desire/need first and then the object /person second. – Cameron Hayes, 2021