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7 Artists & 1 Curator Win $25K Governor General’s Awards

The winners of the 2014 Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts were announced this morning at TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto, honouring a range of creators and influencers in the field.

Among the winners announced by the Canada Council are Toronto sculptor Kim Adams, Ottawa painter Carol Wainio, Vancouver media artist Jayce Salloum, Montreal photographer Angela Grauerholz, multidisciplinary Toronto artist Max Dean, and Montreal performance and installation artist Raymond Gervais. Also honoured was Sandra Brownlee, a weaver and notebook keeper based in in Dartmouth, who picked up the Saidye Bronfman Award for excellence in the fine crafts, and Brydon Smith, an Ottawa curator who gained national notoriety in 1990 when he organized the acquisition of Barnett Newman’s Voice of Fire for the National Gallery of Canada.

Each winner receives $25,000 in recognition of their excellence in their fields.

A taste for the fantastical is one of the themes that surfaces in the work of this year’s awardees, as well as the relation between fantasy and social critique.

Kim Adams is known for his large-scale and miniature sculptural assemblages that are often charged with social commentary. In 2012, he was awarded the Gershon Iskowitz Prize, and in 2013, he was named a Guggenheim fellow. Carol Wainio‘s fabulist tableaux are celebrated for being strange and evocative. As Canadian Art contributing editor Sarah Milroy noted in a 2011 review, “Solid objects segue nonsensically into sensuous brushstrokes of creamy pigment, space seems incoherent and unstable, past and present jostle uneasily, and narrative strands are left to dangle.”

Sandra Brownlee uniquely combines writing, drawing and weaving, creating notebooks that are, in her words, “sensory delights containing expressive studies and inventions, [and] objects in themselves.”

Another theme that joins many of the winners is an investigation into the meaning of images, an examination of the way images interact with physical space, and an exploration of the way images work in an increasingly mobile and globalized reality.

Jayce Salloum is known for photographic and video work that investigates ideas of wandering or itinerancy. For instance, his installation Bamiyan, co-created with Afghan artist Khadim Ali, examines the Taliban’s 2001 destruction of ancient Buddha statues through photography, video and miniature paintings.

Max Dean is recognized for his multimedia work, including photography and kinetic sculpture. It often explores, with wit and intellectual rigour, the relationships among artist, artwork and audience. For instance, at the 2012 Contact Photography Festival in Toronto, Dean exhibited and distributed some of the 600 family photo albums he has collected at paper shows, auctions and flea markets. At that time, Dean noted that photo albums are “the one, and possibly only, story many of us write.”

German-born artist Angela Grauerholz uses photography to probe themes of subjectivity, remembrance and place. In 2010, she was given a retrospective exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada entitled “The Inexhaustible Image.”

Conceptual art and its legacy comes to the fore in the work of Raymond Gervais. This important sound and installation artist recently had works included included in the touring survey of Canadian conceptual art “Traffic” and was the subject of a 2011 retrospective at multiple Montreal venues. Gervais has been a pioneering influence on the evolution of sound art in Canada.

Curator Brydon Smith has been vital to the building of contemporary-art collections in Canada, notably at the Art Gallery of Ontario and the National Gallery of Canada. In addition to Voice of Fire, he acquired Claes Oldenburg’s Floor Burger, which, in 1967, was also the subject of controversy as protesters—some brandishing a massive ketchup bottle—picketed the AGO regarding it.

The Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts were created in 1999 by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Governor General of Canada. The awards celebrate Canada’s vibrant arts community and recognize remarkable careers in the visual and media arts. Nominations are taken each spring, and winners announced the following March.

Each of the artists winning this year is to honoured at the GG’s official awards ceremony on March 26 at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. There will also be a related exhibition of the winners’ works that opens the evening of March 27 at the National Gallery of Canada.

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