Sobey Art Award 2018: the Shortlist


The Sobey Art Foundation and the National Gallery of Canada have announced the five finalists for the 2018 Sobey Art Award. As one of the world’s most prestigious contemporary art prizes, the Sobey Art Award is presented annually to a visual artist age 40 and under who has exhibited in a public or commercial art gallery within 18 months of being nominated. By choosing one nominee from each of the five regions of Canada, the Sobey Art Award provides visibility and financial support to young Canadian contemporary artists, while also offering an opportunity to exchange ideas and to learn about different artistic and curatorial practices from across the country. The work of all five will be featured in a group exhibition from October 3, 2018 at the National Gallery of Canada. This year’s five finalists are: Joi T. Arcand (Prairies and the North), Jordan Bennett (Atlantic region), Kapwani Kiwanga (Ontario), Jeneen Frei Njootli  (West Coast and the Yukon) and Jon Rafman (Québec).


Joi T. Arcand (Prairies and North)

Joi T. Arcand, Fresh Bread - Here On Future Earth, 2009, inkjet print, 50.8 cm x 66 cm. Collection of Adrian Stimson. Courtesy of the artist


An artist from Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, Saskatchewan (Treaty 6 Territory), Joi T. Arcand seeks to revitalize and prevent loss of Indigenous languages through her photo- and text-based work. Her early photographic images and digital collages were informed by her interest in graphic and typographic arts, while her recent work has evolved into sculptural pieces, using site-specific neon signage in Cree syllabics expressing phrases which provide hope and encouragement for Indigenous peoples. Currently residing in Ottawa, she is the founder of the Indigenous art magazine kimiwan. Recent solo exhibitions include Walter Phillips Gallery in Banff, as well as numerous international group exhibitions.


Jordan Bennett (Atlantic)

Jordan Bennett, Histories Between and Through Time, 2017, acrylic paint on cradled wooden panels, 78” x 36” x 1.75”, installation view at Grenfell Art Gallery. Photo: Candace Kennedy


Jordan Bennett is a multidisciplinary artist whose ongoing practice utilizes painting, sculpture, drawing, video, installation and digital media. Born in Stephenville Crossing Ktaqamkuk, he feels a deep connection to this region of Newfoundland, commenting in a 2015 interview with Visual Arts News that “the whole reason I am an artist is based on the landscape and culture of this place.” His research into Mi’kmaq and Beothuk visual culture is central to his work. It explores ideas of land, language and ancestral knowledge while challenging colonial perceptions of Indigenous histories, stereotypes and presence. With a wide portfolio of national and international exhibitions, he was one of the two artists to represent Newfoundland and Labrador in the 2015 Venice Biennial at Galleria Ca’Rezzonico, Venice, Italy as part of the official Collateral Events.


Kapwani Kiwanga (Ontario​)

Kapwani Kiwanga, Shade #3. Courtesy of the Artist, and Goodman Gallery, South Africa. Photo: Victor Sguassero


Kapwani Kiwanga creates a wide variety of work that spans installation, performance, sculpture and video. Her training in anthropology, comparative religion and documentary film is combined with her interests in history, memory and storytelling. In her interview at Frieze, she comments on the rigorous research that underpins her work and the two core themes that are inherent in it: belief and histories “that are not heard enough”. Exploring pockets of knowledge and oral histories, she tackles subjects as diverse as space travel, anti-colonial struggles, geology and Afrofuturism. Born in Hamilton and growing up in Brantford, Kiwanga currently lives and works in Paris, France. Winner of the Frieze Artist Award, her installation work Those Cracks Which Allow Things to Grow out of Them Are Interesting To Me was shown at Frieze New York in May; her solo exhibition Soft Measures is being shown at Glasgow’s Tramway.


Jeneen Frei Njootli (West Coast and Yukon​)

Jeneen Frei Njootli, Joanne, 2017, digital file, 11” x 17”. Courtesy of the artist


Jeneen Frei Njootli is an interdisciplinary artist, co-creator of the ReMatriate Collective and a member of Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation who has been living and working as an uninvited guest on unceded Musqueam, Squamish, Sto:lo and Tsleil­Waututh territories for a decade.  She uses mixed media, sound-based  performances, textiles and installation work to explore history embedded in cultural materials, geopolitics and the politics of Indigenous art. For her recent Media Arts Residency at the Western Front in Vancouver, she hosted a free workshop on how to create and update Wikipedia pages for Indigenous women artists. The 2017 recipient of the Contemporary Art Society Vancouver Artist Prize, she has exhibited at the Fierman Gallery in New York, the Southern Alberta Art Gallery and the Vancouver Art Gallery among others.


Jon Rafman (Québec​)

Jon Rafman, Dream Journal 2016-2017, 2017, video still. Courtesy of the artist


Technology, the internet and subcultures are subjects that inspire the work of Montreal-based Jon Rafman. Through sculpture, video and installation works, he explores the impact of these mediums on contemporary consciousness, incorporating the rich vocabulary of virtual worlds to create poetic narratives that critically engage with the present. His works address themes of inclusion and exclusion, marginalization and affinity, the boundaries between the virtual and the real. Among his most recent exhibitions are Generation Loss at the Julia Stoschek Collection in Düsseldorf (2017–18), Dream Journal ’16 ’1 at Sprüth Magers in Berlin (2017) and I Have Ten Thousand Compound Eyes and Each is Named Suffering at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2016).


The 2018 Sobey Art Award exhibition, featuring the work of the five finalists, will be on view from October 3, 2018 to February 10, 2019 at the National Gallery of Canada, with the winner being announced on November 14, 2018. To learn more, please visit Sobey Art Award. To share this article, please click on the arrow at the top right hand of the page.