Filipina-Canadian artist takes home the 2019 Sobey Art Award

The winner of the 2019 Sobey Art Award is a Filipina-Canadian artist who lives and works in Toronto and Berlin.

Stephanie Comilang holds a BFA from the Ontario College of Art and Design (now OCAD University, Toronto). Her documentary-based work examines the social and cultural factors that shape an environment. Her work has been shown across Canada, in the U.S. and Europe. Comilang’s videos follow a Tagalog speaking “drone” named Paraiso, who documents the experiences of members of the Filipino diaspora.

The announcement was made at a gala dinner in Edmonton at the Art Gallery of Alberta on Friday night. She takes home the $100,000 grand prize. Each of the four remaining shortlisted artists — Nicolas Grenier, Kablusiak, Anne Low and D’Arcy Wilson — were awarded $25,000 CAD. Longlisted artists get $2,000 each. In addition, three artists from the longlist will be selected by the jury to take part in the Sobey Art Award Residencies Program. Finally, one shortlisted artist will be selected by Fogo Island Arts to attend an annual residency.

The Sobey Art Award recognizes Canadian artists 40 years old or younger. The listed artists are selected by a jury of Canadian and international curators and gallery directors. 

Stephanie Comilang. Installation view. Come to Me Paradise. Sobey Art Award 2019. With permission of the artist. Photo: Leroy Schulz

The jury said of the winner’s work:

“Through what she calls science-fiction documentaries, Stephanie Comilang speaks to how the world is increasingly experienced through technology. By using the point of view of a drone — the ancient sentient being Paraiso who acts as both recorder and protagonist — the artist shows how communities, made up of mainly migrant women, carve out space in locations that are never really home. The jury was impressed by her ambitious practice which engages in a complex manner with what has been lost through colonization.”  

The Art Gallery of Alberta will host an exhibition of the work of the 2019 Sobey Art Award shortlisted artists until Jan. 5, 2020. More than 35 works, in a range of media from video-based installations and audience participation to paintings, sculptures, drawings and photographs are on view.

Past Sobey winners include: Brian Jungen, Jean-Pierre Gauthier, Annie Pootoogook, Michel de Broin, Tim Lee, David Altmejd, Daniel Barrow, Daniel Young and Christian Giroux, Raphaëlle de Groot, Duane Linklater, Nadia Myre, Abbas Akhavan, Jeremy Shaw, Ursula Johnson and Kapwani Kiwanga, who won the 2018 award.

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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.