And the Fifty Thousand Dollar Winner Is…..
Every year, one young Canadian artist (40 years of age or younger), is recognized for outstanding achievement and commitment to the arts, through the Sobey Art Award, which is worth $50,000. Created through partnerships between the Sobey Art Foundation, Scotiabank, and the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, this national award is one of the highest honours a young artist can receive. This year, Moncton’s own Mario Doucette has been short-listed as one of the five finalists in the running for this award.
A panel of curatorial advisors representing the five regions in Canada (Atlantic, Quebec, Ontario, Prairies & North, and the West Coast) selects five artists from each region to be considered for the award. Then, they narrow the list from twenty-five down to five, with one short-listed finalist representing each region of Canada. The final stage of the process is to hold an exhibition including artwork by all five short listed finalists, and then to choose a single winner who will receive the Sobey Art Award and $50,000. Mario Doucette has been selected as this year’s representative for the Atlantic region in the national competition. The announcement of this year’s final winner will be made in October during the exhibition.
Mario Doucette is a visual artist who works with dry pastel, acrylic paint, ink and pencil on wood. When asked to describe the themes and concepts that he works with, Mario says, “In 2004, I did a residency in Brouage, France, where I had to do work relating to Samuel Champlain, the founder of Acadie and Quebec. When I returned to Moncton, I started work on a series of paintings called Histoires. This body of work, half-drawing and half-painting, continues to inspire thoughts and reflections on the effects of colonization. Acadian history was a subject I had purposely ignored in my art practice because it was, for me, very depressing. But I got into it. Researching weird little anecdotes, comparing what was taught in school to what is considered factual and re-interpreting re-inventing a whole bunch of stuff. So, I now believe Acadian history to be quite fascinating. I often portrait scenes that incorporate both pleasure and tragedy (some British soldiers are busy killing and burning while others are enjoying a game of curling).”
Mario explains that his Histoires series has been doing quite well, and touring through art galleries all across Canada, from the Eastern Edge Gallery in Saint John’s Newfoundland to the Two Rivers Gallery in Prince George, British Columbia, and not to mention several galleries in between. With respect to the public’s reaction to his work, Mario says, “Judging by the year I’ve had, I would say the reaction to my work is pretty good. Most people would find my work quite amusing but also quite disturbing.”
Nominees and finalists for the Sobey Art Award are leaders in their regions who also represent Canada on the international stage of contemporary art. These artists work in a variety of practices and create challenging and engaging cutting edge work. According to David Moos, Curator of Contemporary Art at the Art Gallery of Ontario and member of the 2008 curatorial committee for the Sobey Art Award, “The Sobey reminds us all, curators and casual viewers alike, that Canadian artists are at the forefront of defining our communal identity and envisioning our cultural values.”
Selected work from the short-listed artists will be featured in an exhibition hosted by the Institute for Contemporary Culture at the Royal Ontario Museum and will run from August 30 to October 13 of 2008. According to Ray Cronin, Acting Director and Chief Curator of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, “The 2008 Sobey Art Award shortlist is very strong and the works produced by this group will certainly make for an engaging and dynamic exhibition, where we will all be able to celebrate the artistic talent of young Canadians.”
The winner of the 2008 Sobey Art Award will be announced during a gala event at the Royal Ontario Museum on October 1, 2008.