Michael Snow
Clothed Woman (In Memory of my Father) 1963
oil and lucite on canvas
152 x 386.2 cm
Purchased 1966
National Gallery of Canada

Ten Artists Participate in Elusive Paradise: The Millennium Prize

Ottawa, Canada - February 9, 2001


 « Dix artistes participent à l'exposition-concours Paradis insaisissables. Le prix du millénaire » 
Ten international contemporary artists attempt to answer the age-old riddle of what makes a perfect world. At stake is The Millennium Prize, a $50,000 cash prize supported by the National Gallery of Canada Foundation, thanks to generous contributions from its Circle members. Elusive Paradise: The Millennium Prize is on view from 9 February to 13 May 2001.
Elusive Paradise: The Millennium Prize explores the theme of Arcadia and questions our relationship to nature at the dawn of the new millennium. The Roman poet Virgil created the image of Arcadia, describing it as an idyllic place of harmony and leisure, a land of perpetual summer in which nature fulfilled every human need. Today the dream of an unspoilt landscape seems more poignant than ever, as we face the consequences of encroaching agriculture, industrialization, urban development, and modern technology.

In the Great Hall
Japan's Yoshihiro Suda presents two new works, Tulips and Weeds from his series of minutely-carved flowers, weeds, twigs, and leaves, demonstrating his keen observation of the natural world of plants. Placed inconspicuously in man-made environments, Suda's work transforms the surrounding space, and probes the relationship between nature and artifice.

In the Water Court, Canadian Galleries and the Garden Court, European and American Galleries
Brazil's Valeska Soares poetically transforms the Gallery's architecture into an arcadian realm. In Picturing Paradise (2001), she introduces perfume to the Water Court, and 40 columns, each girdled with a copper band inscribed with the name and date of a book that contains the word "garden" in its title, to the balcony of the Garden Court.

In the Rideau Chapel, Canadian Galleries
Alberta artist Janet Cardiff premieres her 40-track sound installation, Forty Part Motet (2001). In this sculpturally-conceived sound piece, forty separately-recorded voices are played back through forty speakers positioned around the Gallery's Rideau Chapel.

In the Special Exhibition Galleries (in order of appearance)
Western Canada's Liz Magor examines the idea of nature as refuge. Her sculptures take the form of tree trunks, (Hollow, 1998?99), hollow logs (Burrow, 1999) and stone cairns (Chee-to, 2000). Other works by Magor in this exhibition: Stores (2000), and a series of 8 photographs (Deep Woods, 1999).

In the Special Exhibition Galleries (continued)
Montreal artist Geneviève Cadieux presents three large photographs: Tears (1995); June (1999); and Pour un oui pour un non (2000), a work that juxtaposes two views of a meadow, awkwardly sutured, to suggest a dialogue about place that can only occur in the viewer's mind.

Britain's Tacita Dean tracks the rare event of a solar eclipse in her 16 mm silent film Banewl (1999; duration: 63 minutes). The goal of witnessing a dramatic celestial event eludes both spectator and filmmaker, as the day remains resolutely overcast. Only the restlessness of the cows hints at something out of the ordinary in the gradually darkening, then brightening, day.

Montreal's Jana Sterbak focuses on the body and its extensions, especially clothing. Oasis (2000), the most recent of her garment-like creations, is a tent woven from stainless steel filaments. It is based on the 19th-century "Faraday cage," capable of blocking out low-frequency electro-magnetic waves. With characteristic scepticism, Sterbak suggests that today nature may be something to seek refuge from, rather than in.

Vancouver artist Jeff Wall presents five of his large, back-lit photographic transparencies: The Old Prison (1987), Coastal Motifs (1989), The Crooked Path (1991), In the Public Garden (1993) and The Flooded Grave (1998-2000). Wall's landscapes often remind us of the economic and social dislocations of urban existence.

American artist Diana Thater uses coronal photographs of the sun, taken through a telescope, and then breaks them down into red, green, and blue, and then into magenta, cyan and yellow. The images are further deconstructed by a video processor and relayed to a bank of tv monitors, where they recombine to form a glowing circular image of jewel-like intensity. Red Sun (2000) is one of a series of works presented here.

Pakistan's Shahzia Sikander, who currently lives in New York, blends traditional themes, such as conversations with the beloved, with references to her life in Texas, where she first entered the United States. In her miniature paintings (Elusive Realities, Riding the Ridden, and Riding the Written, all produced in 2000) and the mural work Chaman (2000), Sikander combines ancient traditions with modern forms, and brings East and West into a new synthesis.

Admission to the exhibition is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and full-time students, and free to members of the National Gallery of Canada and visitors under 12. An international committee will select the prize winner, to be announced on Wednesday 7 March 2001 at 6 pm.
Joanne Charette
Director, Public Affairs
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