During a ceremony at Toronto’s Power Plant this evening, Amanda Boulos was named the national winner of the 2018 RBC Canadian Painting Competition. The Toronto-based artist receives $25,000, with her oil-on-panel painting In the Morning (2017) joining the RBC Corporate Art Collection. As part of the prize, Boulos will also enjoy a residency at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.
“Painting is not passive; it can make one act, learn and feel, and it continues to be a unique method of knowledge exchange for both artists and audiences,” Boulos, who was also a finalist in the 2017 competition, has written. Her most recent body of work, of which In the Morning is a part, deals with family stories of the Lebanese Civil War and the 1948 war in Palestine. She writes, “I rely on painting to archive inherited ancestral knowledge and history while emphasizing that this information is not simple or univocal, but instead endlessly complicated and constantly changing.” Boulos, like last year’s winner Ambera Wellmann, is a recent MFA graduate of the University of Guelph.
Also this evening, Emmanuel Osahor and geetha thurairajah won honourable mentions in the RBC Canadian Painting Competition. Each artist—Osahor is based in Edmonton, and thurairajah in Toronto and Brooklyn—receives $15,000. Their paintings, titled Hiding Place (2018) and A complicated relationship with our past makes for better stories of a future (2018), respectively, will also join the RBC Corporate Art Collection. The remaining 12 competition finalists receive $2,500 each.
“My goal was to explore the phenomenon of the constructed sanctuary space, and make palpable the complexities within the notions of sanctuary as beauty, sanctuary as survival, and sanctuary as construction,” Osahor writes of his winning oil painting. A BFA graduate of the University of Alberta, Osahor makes art that also reflects on his experience of moving from Nigeria to Canada. He states: “As an immigrant artist, my paintings reflect the multifaceted viewpoints of contemporary practice in Canada; my research is primarily driven by a desire to deeper understand and portray the complexities of this country I call home.”
geetha thurairajah uses multiple media in her art, incorporating acrylic, oil and charcoal on canvas in her winning piece. Holder of a BFA from NSCAD University and a BA from Wilfred Laurier University, thurairajah was also a finalist in the 2016 RBC Canadian Painting Competition. “I am using the possibilities of paint to deconstruct the codes of authority over an image,” thurairajah has stated. She questions the links between visual habits and societal biases: “As we become more available to purely visual information, how do our perceptions of the world change?”
The award winner and honourable mentions were decided by a seven-member jury: Calgary researcher, writer and curator Natasha Chaykowski; Vancouver artist and Emily Carr University assistant professor Mark Igloliorte; Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery senior curator Crystal Mowry; Erin Stump Projects director Erin Stump of Toronto; Fogo Island Arts director of programs and exhibitions Alexandra McIntosh; Montreal artist and UQAM assistant professor Julie Trudel; and Brooklyn artist Cynthia Daignault.
“Amanda Boulos’s painting In the Morning struck the jury as brave, nuanced, and powerful,” said a jury statement on the winning painting. “Reckoning with mythologies both personal and cultural, Boulos’s work is a vibrant approach to narrative painting and its history.”
Works by the winner, honourable mentions and finalists of the RBC Canadian Painting Competition will be on view at the Power Plant in Toronto until September 30. Also showing there is “The Other Side,” an exhibition honouring the 20-year history of the competition.