Finalists for Ottawa art awards mostly visual artists

Visual artists dominate as finalists for Ottawa’s annual arts awards, announced during an event Thursday night.

The finalists for the Ottawa Arts Council’s Mid-Career Artist Award are visual artists Maura Doyle and Andrew Wright, and music and visual artist Jesse Stewart.

Finalists for the RBC Emerging Artist Award are photographer Olivia Johnston, visual artist Gillian King and writer and critic Catherine Voyer-Léger.

Maura Doyle’s work is determinedly organic and can be playfully primitive. Her work often looks like something that would be found at a Palaeolithic excavation — a pile of bones (made of porcelain), a “Monument to All Boulders” in Vancouver, or a tiny perch fashioned from clay to hold a shard of wood that was chewed out of a tree by a beaver.

“Her recent work focuses on the medium of clay, prehistoric pottery and processes, which includes the traditional techniques of hand building and pit firing,” says the awards citation. “Her multidisciplinary practice has included video, ceramics, sculpture, book works, printed matter and drawing.” See more at

Jesse Stewart, a music professor at Carleton University and a visual arts professor at the University of Ottawa, has recorded and performed around the world. “His music has been documented on over 20 recordings including Stretch Orchestra’s self-titled debut album, which was honoured with the 2012 Instrumental Album of the Year JUNO award,” reads the citation. More at

Andrew Wright, chair of the department of visual arts at the University of Ottawa, pushes the boundaries of photography, even beyond photographs to coating vintage cameras in silver as reverential objets d’art. Wright’s work is, the citation says, built on “multi-tiered inquiries into the nature of perception, photographic structures and technologies, and the ways we relate to a mediated and primarily visual world.” More at

Olivia Johnston is photographic history instructor at SPAO (School of Photographic Arts: Ottawa). Johnston’s work focuses on themes of “gender, individuality, vulnerability, and identity,” ranging from young women posed as repressed female characters in the Bible, to the landscapes in Holga: Selected Impressions, her most recent exhibition at Wallack Gallery, with Jamie Kronick.  More at

The RBC award for emerging artists is sponsored, obviously enough, by RBC, while the mid-career award is sponsored by GGFL Chartered Professional Accountants and Mann Lawyers.

The paintings of multidisciplinary artist Gillian King are textured as if they’ve been wrought by the movements of nature. They may look like kaleidoscopic rock faces, or frames wrapped in skin, or panels of bark sliced from a living, ancient tree. King’s solo graduate thesis exhibition, Becoming Animal, was at the Ottawa Art Gallery in August, 2016. More at

Catherine Voyer-Léger’s three books include Détails et dédales, Désordre et désirs, and Métier critique. Voyer-Léger is heard on the Radio-Canada programs C’est fou and Les Malins, and she is president of the board of the Salon du livre de l’Outaouais. More at

The winner of each award will receive $5,000, while $1,000 goes to each runner up. The winners will be revealed May 9.

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Peter Simpson, a native of Prince Edward Island, was arts editor and arts editor at large for the Ottawa Citizen for 15 years, with a focus on the visual arts. He lives in downtown Ottawa with one wife, two cats and more than 100 paintings, drawings and sculptures.