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News / April 19, 2016

Prestigious Awards Shine Light on Vancouver Artists

At the Audain and Viva awards ceremony this evening, top prize went to a man whose video was once called "not art" by the Vancouver Art Gallery.
Audain Prize winner Paul Wong's video installation <em>Solstice</em> (2014). Image courtesy of the artist. Photo: SD Holman. Audain Prize winner Paul Wong's video installation Solstice (2014). Image courtesy of the artist. Photo: SD Holman.

At a ceremony this evening, the Vancouver Art Gallery announced this year’s recipients of the Audain Prize and the VIVA Awards.

Paul Wong has been awarded the Audain Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Visual Arts, an annual $30,000 award for senior BC artists funded by the Audain Foundation.

Kelly Lycan and Raymond Boisjoly are the winners of the VIVA Awards designed to celebrate exemplary achievement by British Columbia artists in mid-career. Each receives $12,000 from the Jack and Doris Shadbolt Foundation for the Visual Arts.

“On behalf of this year’s Audain Prize jury, we are so proud to present this prize to Paul Wong, a pioneering artist in visual and media art,” said Vancouver Art Gallery director Kathleen Bartels in a release. “Wong is recognized for his distinguished, multifaceted and influential art career spanning four decades. In addition, he has been instrumental in founding and cultivating some of the most interesting and innovative artist-run spaces in the city, such as On Main, VIVO Media Arts Centre, as well as Vancouver Art and Leisure Society.”

Paul Wong is known for his eclectic approach and his direct engagement with issues of issues of race, sex and death. He has, at times, been deemed controversial, with the nine-hour 1984 video Confused: Sexual Views cited by the artist as the primary reason for the cancellation of an earlier exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery. (Though initially deemed “not art” by gallery reps, Confused was later included in a 2002 exhibition for Wong at the Vancouver Art Gallery.)

“As an artist, I am conscious of the democratization of media; I’m given the tools to turn my eye/camera away from the mainstream doctrine,” Wong told Sad Mag in 2015. “Instead, I actively choose to turn the camera towards myself and my community in order to tell my own story and to share our thoughts and images. This has always been my politic.”

In addition to their individual artistic achievements, Boisjoly and Lycan were also lauded for their contributions to BC’s art communities: “Boisjoly’s discursive and teaching practice has made an mark in BC, and … Lycan’s artistic endeavours as a community member is significant to our cultural ecology,” said Melanie O’Brian, director of Simon Fraser University Galleries and trustee of the Shadbolt Foundation.

Established in 2004, the Audain Prize for Lifetime Achievement is selected by an independent jury. Previous winners include Michael Morris (2015), Fred Herzog (2014) and Rodney Graham (2011). The 2016 Audain Prize jury members are Dana Claxton, Myfanwy MacLeod, Patrik Andersson, Lorna Brown and Kathleen Bartels.

The VIVA Awards have provided awards since 1988, with winners chosen for outstanding accomplishment and commitment by an independent jury. Recent recipients include Elizabeth Zvonar (2015), Skeena Reece and Mina Totino (2014), and Elizabeth McIntosh (2013). This year’s jury is consisted of Brian McBay, Shaun Dacey, Tarah Hogue, Diana Freundl and Elspeth Pratt.

Leah Sandals

Leah Sandals is a writer and editor based in Toronto. Her arts journalism has appeared in the Toronto Star, National Post and Globe and Mail, among other publications, and her creative work has been published in Prism, Room and Freefall. She can be reached via