The Kingston Prize recognizes achievement in Canadian portraiture. Davis’s winning work, Basement Self Portrait, is a realist painting that was created using oil emulsion on honeycomb panel. It shows him in the basement of his 100-year-old-plus home looking into overlapping panes of mirror and glass.
“In my work, my desire is to capture the essence of things caught in a quiet moment,” Davis writes in his artist statement. “When time slows objects speak to me. I am more interested in what things tell me than in the stories I might tell. I see myself as a translator, more than a storyteller.”
Davis was born in Middletown, New York, in 1947 and studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in the mid-1960s. He was previously recognized at the 2011 Kingston Prize with a People’s Choice Award, voted upon by visitors to the award exhibition.
The two honourable mentions for the prize, who received $2,000 each, were Jay Senetchko and Elizabeth Topham, both of Vancouver, BC. Senetchko’s painting I Remember that Yellow Chair is, like Davis’s piece, in a contemplative mood and realist style. Topham’s closely cropped Self Portrait @ Age 47 is in a slightly more expressionist vein with a more confrontational feel.
The award picks may come as a surprise to some observers given the profile of some of this year’s finalists. The 27 remaining finalists include Kim Dorland, currently the focus of a significant survey at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection. Mid-career artists Dana Holst and Phil Irish were also finalists, as were emerging painters Alex Bierk, Jen Mann and Sarah Beattie.
The prize’s jury members this year were Queen’s University art historian Stephanie Dickey; painter and OCADU associate professor Natalka Husar; MOCA Calgary artistic director Jeffrey Spalding; and Whyte Museum curator of art and heritage Anne Ewen.
This year’s People’s Choice Award went to Jessie Babin of Dalhousie, New Brunswick, for her large graphite drawing Valmont. Babin graduated from NSCAD in 2012.
The Kingston Prize is a competition for recent portraits of Canadians by Canadian artists, and it has been held every two years beginning in 2005. The value of the prize was initially $3,000 but with the support of the W. Garfield Weston Foundation it grew to $20,000 in 2011.
Works from the winner, honourable mentions, and finalists will be on view at the Art Gallery of Calgary until December 21.