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Prue Hawke, Now I Know GriefTitle
Now I Know Grief

In storage

Place of origin
New South Wales, Australia



Co-winner Calleen Award 1996

Accession number

Excerpt from The Calleen Collection by Peter Haynes (2019)

Prue Hawke was born in 1959 and was resident in Orange when she was named co-winner of the 1996 Calleen Prize. She has exhibited in major group shows in the Central West including Alchemy: Cadia Hill Gold Mine Art Project (2002). There is no reference to her in any of the standard texts or auction records. Hawke’s painting Now I Know Grief is exemplary in its figurative subject-matter, being only the second winner (after another co-winner, Geraldine Belton, 1981) to take on human subject-matter. Again landscapes were the overwhelming majority in the 1996 Prize exhibition.

Now I Know Grief is a direct and confrontational image. The figure sits in a spare and minimal space. The space is divided into a brown wall behind the sitter and a murky grey table in front of her. The sitter stares hypnotically towards the viewer. She wears a top whose stark whiteness offers a marked contrast to the brown wall behind. Her face framed by black hair is set and determined, stolid and unwavering, but replete with possibilities of imminent collapse. Her apparent composure and the minimalist setting could place her in court undergoing cross-examination by a determined barrister. In a sense searching for a setting is irrelevant. The artist has imbued this work with an innate psychological and emotional tension that finds its counterpart in her formal battery.

The ostensibly simplistic composition belies its layered details. This is a picture that demands extensive consideration. The figure’s neck and head are taut and stretched mirroring her inner condition. The upward thrust of these is visually and conceptually broken by the downward pull of tne heavy breasts which almost sit on the top of the table. This falling movement is reinforced by the droopy perpendiculars of her arms that disappear below the table cloth making them more abstract than human.

The intensity of this work has art historical precedents and one thinks of Modigliani and Picasso. The latter’s late 19th-century and early 20th-century portraits carry a distinct resonance with Hawke’s piece. While stylistically the work owes little to Picasso the confrontational directness of the protagonist certainly does. The gravitas of Now I Know Grief attests to the power of the visual to convey emotional states in ways that absorb and hold the viewer.