At a time when the lack of diversity is being condemned in film, television and culture generally, this year, the Sobey Art Award shortlist truly represents the diversity of contemporary art produced in Canada.
Despite the fact that the Sobey Art Award has launched the careers of several internationally renowned artists, and the award, given to emerging contemporary artists in Canada, is significantly more than the UK’s Turner Prize, it - and the extraordinary artists who benefit from it - still flies under the radar.
Five artists have been shortlisted, four of whom are women: Raymond Boisjoly (British Colombia), Jacynthe Carrier (Québec), Ursula Johnson (Nova Scotia), Divya Mehra (Manitoba) and Bridget Moser (Ontario).
An indigenous artist of Haida and Québécois descent, Raymond Boisjoly explores how cultural identification is connected to artistic identity. His work often restructures ethnographic identities, reconnecting to a cultural specificity previously rendered invisible.
Jacynthe Carrier’s videos and photos tell us about promiscuity and invented rituals, evoking her reflections on the relationships between humans and their environment, between body and territory, exploring questions around tradition, cycles and never-ending searches.
A member of the Eskasoni Mi’qmaw First Nation, Ursula Johnson’s remarkable practice is built on memory and community. As Canadians celebrate and challenge their understanding of nationhood with the 150th anniversary of confederation, her work embodies a considered, critical, yet generous lens through which multiple histories and communities may be considered.
Divya Mehra’s work is an astute example of how art can destabilize our collective and individual perceptions about race and gender. She does this through pop cultural lines, manipulating common signs into pointed and, at times, barbed commentary that references the caution and insincerity of a forced political correctness.
Bridget Moser has been singled out for defining her own iconoclastic genre and her singular voice joins a sentinel species of millennial artists alerting audiences to the new paradoxes of commodity culture gone wild, and offers tragicomic remedy in excess of even the most bombastic late night infomercial.
The winner of the 2017 Sobey Art Award will be announced on October 25, 2017.