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RBC Canadian Painting Competition: Start Your Engines

Betino Assa Gathering in the forest, 12 am 2011

This week, RBC and the Canadian Art Foundation announced the 2012 RBC Canadian Painting Competition finalists, with five contenders named for each of the contest’s three regions: Western Canada, Central Canada and Eastern Canada.

Nominees for Western Canada are Ahbyah Baker (Vancouver), Thomas Chisholm (Victoria), Jordy Hamilton (Vancouver), Andrea Kastner (Edmonton) and Katie Lyle (Vancouver). From Central Canada, they are Colin Muir Dorward (Ottawa), Aleksander Hardashnakov (Toronto), David Hucal (Guelph), Vanessa Maltese (Toronto) and Jenna Faye Powell (Sarnia). And from Eastern Canada, they are Betino Assa (Montreal), Philip Delisle (Halifax), Nicolas Rancellucci (Montreal), Corri-Lynn Tetz (Montreal) and Julie Trudel (Montreal).

The competition awards the winner a purchase prize of $25,000. Two honourable mentions each receive purchase prizes of $15,000. Winners are to be announced in Toronto on November 29 when all 15 finalists exhibit their paintings at the Power Plant.

Each year, the competition is judged by a who’s who of artists, gallery directors and curators from across the country. Two of this year’s jurors—Nigel Prince, executive director of the Contemporary Art Gallery in Vancouver, and Jonathan Shaughnessy, associate curator, contemporary art at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa—spoke with Canadian Art about the context surrounding contemporary painting.

“Inevitably,” said Prince, “there are ongoing and abiding concerns in painting—formally to do with its materiality, process, ideas of representation, figuration, abstraction and time, as well as the relationship of painting to other image-making forms such as photography—regardless of where or when work is made. Enough has been written about endgame scenarios and the death of painting as a viable means of expression. It continues to retain a hold as a way to articulate a response to the world alongside any other media. In times of increasing mediation and technologies, painting per se seems to still create opportunities to slow thinking, to allow engagement for the viewer to reflect and alight on ideas at a particular pace.”

For Shaughnessy, “Contemporary painting is such an open field these days. However, there is certainly something interesting going on in my mind with the materiality and ‘stuff’ of painting. As though in response to a generation of conceptualism and idea-based art, painters want to ‘just paint’ and not think about it. But this is no longer possible, so the baggage is sorted out in intriguing ways that conjure aspects of abstraction, design, print and installation. One of the vexing issues is how to push beyond the dichotomy of abstraction versus representation in a meaningful way.”

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