Winnipeg-based artist Divya Mehra has been named the recipient of the 2019 Wanda Koop Research Fund.
Created by Canadian Art, the $15,000 award recognizes a mid-career visual artist and is intended to fund research activities related to their artistic practice. The fund is named in honour of Governor General’s Award recipient Wanda Koop, who was the first artist to appear on the cover of Canadian Art when it began publishing in the fall of 1984.
Known for her meticulous attention to the interaction of form, medium and site, Divya Mehra’s work deals with her diasporic experiences and historical narratives. She incorporates found artifacts and readymade objects as active signifiers of resistance or as reminders of the difficult realities of displacement, loss, neutrality and oppression. Mehra works in a multitude of forms, including sculpture, print, drawing, artist books, installation, advertising, performance, video and film. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and is represented by Georgia Scherman Projects.
Candidates for this award are nominated and selected by an independent national jury. Jury members for this year’s prize included Josée Drouin-Brisebois, senior curator of contemporary art at the National Gallery of Canada; Julia Dault, artist; and Ali Kazimi, filmmaker, media artist and professor at York University.
The jury remarked that Divya Mehra’s wide-ranging art, which is imbued with wry humour and intelligence, encourages viewers to consider their often-uncomfortable reactions to difficult questions about race(ism) and representation. Born and raised in Winnipeg, where she still lives, Mehra pairs research into popular culture, including comics and social media, with her experience as an artist within the Indian diaspora. Highly provocative, the droll quality of her works disarms viewers as its content challenges stereotypes and contributes to conversations about diversity, colonialism and the impacts of racism. Mehra’s artistic output is a form of resistance—both to being consumed and to satisfying the audience’s needs and desires.