Shortlist year: 2022

Shortlist category: Fiction

Published by: Transit Lounge

Potent, haunting and lyrical, Night Blue is a debut novel like no other, a narrative largely told in the voice of the painting Blue Poles. It is a truly original and absorbing approach to revisiting Jackson Pollock and his wife Lee Krasner as artists and people, as well as a realigning our ideas around the cultural legacy of Whitlam's purchase of Blue Poles in 1973.

It is also the story of Alyssa, and a contemporary relationship, in which Angela O'Keeffe immerses us in the essential power of art to change our personal lives and, by turns, a nation.

Moving between New York and Australia with fluid ease, Night Blue is intimate and tender, yet surprisingly dramatic. It is a glorious exploration of how art must never be undervalued.

About the author

Angela O'Keeffe

Angela O'Keeffe grew up on a farm in South East Queensland and now lives in Sydney. She completed a Master of Arts in Writing at University of Technology Sydney and has had short stories published in literary journals. Night Blue is her first book.

Judges’ comments

Angela O'Keeffe had a bold idea, to tell the story of Jackson Pollock's Blue Poles from the perspective not of those who purchased or indeed gaze upon it, but that of the painting itself. It was unquestionably risky, and in our view, she has succeeded brilliantly.

O'Keeffe brings the artwork, Blue Poles, to glorious life in 'Night Blue' inviting the reader to journey with the masterpiece from its first home on the floor of an old barn in Long Island, New York, across the seas to Australia. It is a triumph of her own imagination, and an invitation to our own.

Purchased for a record price in 1973, Blue Poles generated much controversy and debate about art and cultural life in Australia, at a time of political and creative tumult. Today, the painting is considered both beautiful and tremendously satisfying; something to devour. So, too, this slim novel, in which O'Keeffe takes on important themes including the disturbing behaviour of famous artists across history; the Dismissal of the Whitlam government by the Governor General; and the purpose and the value of art. Blue Poles learns, as it journeys, much about itself; we learn, in this novel, as much about the country we once were, and still hope to be.