Toronto, February 28, 2012 – The winners of the 2012 Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts were announced today by Robert Sirman, Director and CEO of the Canada Council for the Arts at TIFF Bell Lightbox. Each has, in their own way, made a mark on Canada’s dynamic art scene through their groundbreaking work. They are:
- Margaret Dragu, performance artist
- Geoffrey James, photographer
- Charles Lewton-Brain, artist-goldsmith (Saidye Bronfman Award)
- Ron Martin, visual artist
- Diana Nemiroff, art gallery director and curator (Outstanding Contribution)
- Jan Peacock, visual artist – media and installation
- Royden Rabinowitch, sculptor
- Jana Sterbak, visual artist
An electronic press kit complete with video interviews and images of the artists and their works is available on the Canada Council website.
“Throughout their careers, the 2012 winners of the Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts have surprised, touched and inspired us,” stated His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada. “Let us celebrate these Canadian artists whose creativity and talent we can all be proud of.”
“Artists are alchemists, and the 2012 Governor General’s Visual and Media Arts laureates are masters at transforming everyday experience into gold,” said Robert Sirman, Director and CEO of the Canada Council for the Arts. “These awards celebrate artists who have played a key role in shaping the Canada of today, and who continue to have a lasting and positive impact on our culture.”
Over her 40-year career, Margaret Dragu has been a performance, video, film and installation artist, a writer and a choreographer. Initially a dancer, she soon began to move freely between art forms, always striving to connect with the public in meaningful ways. She’s worked with both artists (including Tom Dean, General Idea, Rodney Werden and Kate Craig) and non-artists in her community. She has captivated audiences at galleries and museums across Canada and abroad, and in local women’s centres libraries, strip malls and city streets. Eccentric and engaging, with glamour and wit, Dragu and her many personas (Verb Woman, Lady Justice, Nuestra Senora del Pan) elevate the everyday to comment on feminism, the environment and social issues. When she’s not performing, she brings her expertise on body and movement to her work as a personal trainer for teens to seniors, including those with clinical needs. Margaret Dragu was born in Saskatchewan, worked in New York City, Montreal and Toronto, and, since 1986, is based in Vancouver/Richmond, B.C.
Geoffrey James’s work in the 1970s looked at the aristocratic idyll of European formal gardens. His scope has since widened to include the work of American landscape architect F.L. Olmsted, the asbestos-mining landscape of Quebec, the “no man’s land” along the US-Mexican border, and the nature of urban space in such cities as Paris, Lethbridge, Toronto and Havana. He has worked as a journalist (including as an associate editor of Time), and was head of visual arts at the Canada Council before devoting himself full-time to photography at age 40. He has exhibited widely, and his work can be found in such major collections as the National Gallery of Canada, the Museum of Modern Art and the Canadian Centre for Architecture. James is a Guggenheim fellow and a professor emeritus at Ryerson University. He is the recipient of several prizes, including the Canada Council’s Victor Martin Lynch-Staunton Award, the Roloff Beny Foundation Photography Book Award and the Gershon Iskowitz Foundation Prize. Geoffrey James was born in St. Asaph, Wales, and lives in Toronto.
Charles Lewton-Brain has made a lasting mark on fine crafts both in and outside the studio. His jewellery – distinctive in that it shows the natural outcomes of tensions that occur when metals are pushed to their limit – has been exhibited across Canada and abroad. He teaches at the Alberta College of Art and Design (1986-present), and has written extensively on goldsmithing techniques, safety and studio photography. He and his spouse, artist Dee Fontans created and ran a centre for jewellery studies in Calgary (1991-2002) and collaborated to introduce jewellery into performance art works. A tireless innovator, Lewton-Brain created his own publishing company, Brain Press, cofounded Ganoksin.com, which has become the world’s largest free online resource for jewelers, and invented a technique called “foldforming,” which uses simple hand tools to rapidly shape sheet metal. He has served on the boards of the Canadian Conference for the Arts, the Canadian Crafts Federation (president for two years), and the Alberta Craft Council. He has lived in Calgary since 1986.
For over 40 years, Ron Martin has consistently and rigorously explored the medium of painting, producing a remarkable body of work that has made him one of Canada’s most celebrated artists. He was introduced to the arts as a teenager in the commercial arts program at H.B. Beal Secondary High School in London, Ontario. From there, he launched into London’s vibrant art scene of the 1960s, where he worked with Greg Curnoe, Murray Favro, Royden Rabinowitch and other key Canadian artists. His work has been shown in exhibitions across the country, notably a major solo exhibition of his black paintings (1971-1981), organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario, which toured to the Vancouver Art Gallery, the National Gallery of Canada and the Musée d’art contemporain in Montreal (1989-91). He earned international acclaim when he represented Canada at the Venice Biennale in 1978. His passionate writing about art, the artistic process and his own artistic journey, has been published widely, from major exhibition catalogues to articles in the Toronto Street News. Ron Martin is currently based in Toronto.
Diana Nemiroff has made an enduring impact on the Canadian art landscape and curatorial practice. She has lived up to her reputation of “star curator” by showing us Canada’s vibrant and inclusive contemporary art scene. Curator at the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) for more than 20 years, and director of the Carleton University Art Gallery since 2005, Diana Nemiroff has organized ground-breaking events such as the Millennium Prize Exhibition Elusive Paradise andLand, Spirit, Power: First Nations at the National Gallery of Canada, and has been instrumental in the acquisition of works by Aboriginal artists and women artists at the NGC. Adjunct Professor with the School for Studies in Art and Culture at Carleton University and in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Ottawa, she holds an M.A. in art history from Concordia University and is a well-known lecturer. Diana Nemiroff has published extensively and won prizes such as the Janet Braide Memorial Award for contributions to Canadian art history. Born in London (UK), she grew up in Montreal and now lives in Ottawa.
Jan Peacock began exploring the medium of video in 1977. In 1982, she started to teach at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD), as one of the first full-time female faculty there in non-traditional media. Her work has been exhibited throughout Canada, as well as in France, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Poland, and other countries, and is found in national and international collections. Constantly experimenting with video through editing, narrative structure, observed and performed action, and with spoken and written text, she has completed over 20 impressive works in the areas of single-channel video and video installation, including the seminal Reader by the Window (1993). She has won awards at various festivals, such as the Atlantic Film & Video Festival and the Chicago International Film & Video Festival. In 1997, she received the Canada Council Bell Award in Video Art. Also a curator and scholar, Peacock has written extensively about video and contemporary art. Born in Barrie, Ontario, she lives in Halifax, where she continues to inspire students at NSCAD.
As a teenager growing up in Toronto, Royden Rabinowitch developed an appreciation of modern ontology, the corollary of modern physics. This appreciation would inform all his artistic thinking, just as his five earliest constructions (1962-65) would become the foundation for all his art. The first versions of these foundational works are dispersed in international collections. The Neue Nationalgalerie Berlin and the Hooft Collection, Ghent, Flanders (opening to the public in the summer of 2012) are the only collections possessing versions of all five foundational constructions. His works are in the collections of over fifty major museums. In the 1980s, Rabinowitch began constructing works discoursing on early modern ontology referencing the founders of modern physics which were seen by chance to relate to particular public places – the earliest being Judgment on the Keplerian Revolution(Furkapasshöhe, Swiss Alps); the latest being Bell for Kepler(Sesquicentennial Plaza, Waterloo, Ontario). He is a Life Member of Clare Hall, Cambridge University, and an Officer of the Order of Canada. Rabinowitch now divides his time between Ghent, Belgium; Cambridge, U.K.; and Waterloo, Ontario.
For more than 30 years, Jana Sterbak has defined contemporary art through her sculptures, videos, installations and performances. Her work, such as the famous Vanitas: Flesh Dress for an Albino Anorectic, uses unusual forms and materials to ruthlessly consider the human condition. Her unique vision – like that of the animal in From Here to There, presented at the 50th Venice Biennale – renews the relationship between spectator and art. She occupies an enviable position on the national and international art scene, with major retrospectives presented at the National Gallery of Canada, the Carré d’art in Nîmes, London’s Serpentine Gallery, the Fondation Tapies in Barcelona and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago. Her art is included in several Canadian, European and American collections, and she has won numerous prizes, among them the Ozias-Leduc Award from the Fondation Émile Nelligan and the Chalmers Award. Jana Sterbak was born in Prague, Czech Republic, and immigrated to Vancouver with her parents in 1968. After studies at Concordia University, she lived in Toronto, New York, Barcelona and Paris. She now makes her home in Montreal.
Awards ceremonyThe Governor General of Canada will present the 2012 Awards at a ceremony at Rideau Hall (1 Sussex Drive, Ottawa) on Wednesday, March 28 at 6 p.m. Media wishing to attend the ceremony should contact Julie Rocheleau at the Rideau Hall Press Office, 613-998-7280.
Exhibition and film screeningThe National Gallery of Canada exhibition held in conjunction with these awards will run from March 30 to June 17. In addition to the exhibition, on March 21 at 7 p.m., TIFF will hold a special screening of Jan Peacock’s work as part of The Free Screen, TIFF Cinematheque’s ongoing showcase of independent and avant-garde media arts work.
Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media ArtsThe Awards, funded and administered by the Canada Council for the Arts, are in their 13th year and recognize distinguished career achievements in the visual and media arts by Canadian artists, as well as outstanding contributions through voluntarism, philanthropy, board governance, community outreach or professional activities. The Canada Council Art Bank – celebrating its 40th anniversary this year – has in its collection, many works by the 100+ artists who have won the Awards through the years, works that are available for rent or for loan.
The Saidye Bronfman Award recognizes excellence in fine crafts, and is funded from the proceeds of a $1.5 million endowment given to the Canada Council by The Samuel and Saidye Bronfman Family Foundation in 2006. The support of the Foundation to the Canadian Museum of Civilization has also helped the Museum acquire works by recipients of the Saidye Bronfman Award.
Peer committeesThis year’s independent peer assessment committee for the Awards consisted of John Bentley Mays (Toronto), Dana Claxton (Vancouver), Yvon Cozic (Sainte-Anne-de-la-Rochelle, Que.), Michael Fernandes (East Dover, N.S.), Mary Scott (Calgary) and Bill Vorn (Montreal).
The peer assessment committee members for the Saidye Bronfman Award were Leslie Manning (Medicine Hat, Alta.), Marcel Marois (Québec City) and Lillian Yuen (Dartmouth, N.S.).