2018 Sobey Art Award winner is Paris-based Kapwani Kiwanga

Kapwani Kiwanga is the winner of the 2018 Sobey Art Award.

The winner of the 2018 Sobey Art Award is Kapwani Kiwanga.

The announcement of her award was made Wednesday evening at a gala at the National Gallery of Canada.

“The Sobey Art Award is a humbling encouragement to continue to make work that asks us to look anew at society and its past while allowing us to imagine unbounded possibilities.  The award affords me the opportunity to create conditions which will allow me to focus more intently on my work and push it further in the years to come. I am honoured to be included amongst this group of talented artists whose strong voices remind us of art’s potential to both move and challenge. I am thankful to all those who have believed, encouraged, supported, called into question, trusted, taken issue, pushed, shared, disputed, and cared,” Kiwanga said in a media release.

She becomes the 15th Canadian artist under 40 to win the award, which is valued at $100,000.

Kiwanga works with sound, film, performance and objects. She has a background as an anthropologist and uses that training to  to construct narratives.

This is Kapwani Kiwanga’s work in the 2018 Sobey Art Award exhibition on now at the National Gallery of Canada.

ARTSFILE’s Peter Simpson said this about her work in his review of the Sobey exhibition:

“To walk out and into Kiwanga’s installation is like stumbling out of a desert of dystopia into an oasis of calming colour.  Kiwanga covered the entire gallery wall in earthy (there’s that word again) green, and diffuse yellow, and built walls of lumber covered in soft tones of blue, brown, grey, etc. They’re mined from “correctional colour theory” and explore “how specific colours have been used to calm, motivate or enforce discipline.”

The notes refer to it as a sound-based work, though I couldn’t decipher what a disembodied voice was saying and, also, it was competing with the audio of Rafman next door. Regardless, a physical sense of calm flowed over me as I walked among those restful hues, especially as I looked through the window cut into one wall, out onto what seemed a world of prescriptive Pantone. My senses settled like leaves falling to the forest floor.”

There were four other finalists:

Jordan Bennett representing the Atlantic region;

Jon Rafman from Québec;

Joi T. Arcand representing the Prairies and the North;

Jeneen Frei Njootli is from the West Coast and Yukon.

Each of the other finalists take home $25,000.

“The jury noted how Kapwani Kiwanga creates a visual language to reconsider complexities and peripheries of history. She points to fissures in our human narrative. Using archival materials and referencing anthropology, agriculture, and urban design, among other sources; she reveals global effects of the colonial project. In so doing, she addresses hidden authoritarian structures, institutional devices, and power imbalances to help us see the world differently,” the jury that decided the award said.

The 2018 Sobey Art Award jury was chaired by Josée Drouin-Brisebois, the senior curator of Contemporary Art at the National Gallery of Canada. It included Heather Igloliorte, independent curator and Concordia University Research Chair in Indigenous Art History and Community Engagement, who represented the Atlantic Provinces; Jean-François Bélisle, executive director and chief curator, Musée d’art de Joliette, Quebec; November Paynter, director of programs, Museum of Contemporary Art in Toronto; Kristy Trinier, executive director, Southern Alberta Art Gallery; Melanie O’Brian, director, Simon Fraser University Galleries and international juror, Séamus Kealy, director, Salzburg Kunstverein in Austria. 

The Sobey Art Award promote new developments in contemporary Canadian art and provides financial support to young  artists.

A total of $240,000 in prize money was awarded on Wednesday including $2,000 to each of the remaining 20 longlisted artists.

Among past winners of the Sobey Art Award: Brian Jungen (2002), Jean-Pierre Gauthier (2004), Annie Pootoogook (2006), Michel de Broin (2007), Tim Lee (2008), David Altmejd (2009), Daniel Barrow (2010), Daniel Young and Christian Giroux (2011), Raphaëlle de Groot (2012), Duane Linklater (2013), Nadia Myre (2014), Abbas Akhavan (2015), Jeremy Shaw (2016)  and Ursula Johnson (2017).

The annual  2018 Sobey Art Award exhibition is on at the National Gallery of Canada until Feb. 10.

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.