A?ojak had an interesting response from some members of the community since she won the 53rd Blake Prize for Religious Art in November.
Some people who don’t know what it is are quite shocked. It’s like, What are you doing in a religious art prize? she said.
Their confusion is a little understandable. As well as her painting, sculpture, installation and set design work, Wojak is one half of senVoodoo, a performance troupe founded in 1999 by the artist and writer Fiona McGregor.
A one-time Mardi Gras workshop designer (alongside Doris Fish and Peter Tully), Wojak devises performances with titles such as Sick Little Games.
And yet, Wojak has been entering the religious art competition since 1988.
One of the gorgeous things about the Blake Prize that makes it such a special thing is it was actually started by people who weren’t all of the same faith, and it has a very broad sphere of reference that is non-denominational and basically simply spiritual, she said.
According to Wojak, a recurring motif in her work has been addressing universal spirituality.
Not in a sense of organised religion -“ because they become political bodies and power corrupts. It’s more a case of seeing the universality of spirituality across beliefs and peoples -¦ I look at the factors that are common, rather than the factors that divide, Wojak said.
It was a commonality that inspired Wojak to create Pieta (Dafur), which won the Blake Prize, a painting on a circular water tank cover. The work featured men grieving the loss of a child who has died of starvation in a refugee camp in Sudan: a rare image, Wojak said.
When you look at images of war, inevitably the men are off fighting, the women are left behind to mourn. If you look at most images that you end up seeing of mourning, they are usually the women, Wojak said.
Her work is not wholly political, as politics are part of it rather than the initial aim; neither is it overtly concerned with gender performance, despite the somewhat subversive content of Pieta (Dafur).
There are glimmers of meaning in Wojak’s layered upbringing.
She was born in Australia but studied in Poland from 1976 to 1984, surviving Communism, through Solidarity and martial law.
Then there’s the Polish Catholicism, a faith Wojak loved for its basis in ancient Slavic pagan traditions, with roadside shrines and unusual yuletide rituals.
Now, Wojak doesn’t conform to any denomination, but has created art such as secular shrines.
And the common denominator in all of them is that I do use recycled materials, because they have a life of their own. They bring something to it, Wojak said.
It’s been burnished and polished in such a way that it reflects light underneath the paint.
A?ojak and Fiona McGregor’s website is www.senvoodoo.com and examples of A?ojak’s work can also be viewed online at www.apartment6.com.au.