Tuesday, March 24, 2009
2009 Governor General's Award Winners (Visual and Media Arts)
The winners of the 2009 Governor General's Awards in Visual and Media Arts have been announced. The laureates are, from left, Tony Urquhart, Raymond Moriyama, Robert Morin, Kevin Lockau, Gordon Smith, Nobuo Kubota, Rita McKeough, Kim Ondaatje and John Greer. (Photograph: Martin Lipman)
The awards have recognize the following contributions to artistic life in Canada:
• Kim Ondaatje and Tony Urquhart, recognized jointly with an Outstanding Contribution award for their work on behalf of CARFAC (Canadian Artists’ Representation / Le Front des artistes canadiens).
• Toronto architect Raymond Moriyama, designer of the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, Toronto’s Bata Shoe Museum and Science North in Sudbury, Ont.
• Video artist Robert Morin of Montreal
• Glass artist Kevin Lockau of Bancroft, Ont., who wins the Saidye Bronfman Award for fine crafts
• Ninety-year-old Vancouver painter Gordon Smith
• Zen-inspired Toronto sculptor and musician Nobuo Kubota
• Calgary-based installation and performance artist Rita McKeough
• Nova Scotia sculptor John Greer
As a gallerist , I am very very proud to have shown the work of Tony Urquhart as well as Kevin Lockau.
Urquhart is absolutely one of my favourite Canadian painters. His self sufficient and wise attitude toward the artistic process is both grounding and inspiring: he is fond of saying that the great thing about never having been in fashion is that you never go out of fashion. (As I've noted previously, however, I believe really good painting will be very much in fashion again soon, as we generally tire of excess, vanity and greed as guiding principles in both the art world and the financial world.) Urquhart's career has spanned more than 50 years and he has received many awards and honours for his painting and sculpture. However, his GG, which he shares with Kim Ondaatje, is an Outstanding Contribution award for their work on behalf of CARFAC (Canadian Artists’ Representation / Le Front des artistes canadiens).
It is the award to Kevin Lockau which I believe will generate the most gossip within the art community... or certainly within the craft community. The GG for craft (aka the Saidye Bronfman Award) typically has gone to an artist for whom technical prowess is as important, and sometimes more important, than concept. Lockau is certainly capable of virtuosity when it comes to technical matters; however it simply is not what drives him. He played an important role in developing the glass studio at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario, where he taught for 20 years. Over his career, he invented three hot glass casting techniques, producing an unique material which he incorporates in his sculpture with carved granite and welded or cast metal elements. His work is raw and urgent, combining animal, natural and human forms. Lockau has largely eschewed the gallery "system", and has never been persuaded that saleability is a suitable motive for artistic creation. He chooses to live and work in relative isolation, on a plot of land outside Bancroft, Ontario. This rugged region, where rural farmland gives way to wilderness, has been his muse. The making of glass leaves an unfortunately large carbon footprint, and this is a conundrum for Lockau. He has been driven to reconcile his love of glass-as-matter with the fact that the process of creating this material is far from ecologically sound. This conflict is embodied in the raw and energized nature of his sculpture.
Lockau was nomnated for the GG by Lafreniere and Pai, his Ottawa gallery. Hats off to them: I am one of this gallery's many admirers. They support a roster of artists who consistently challenge and push traditional boundaries in the "art v craft" debate.