Sobey Art Prize 2019: The Five Finalists



Each year, the Sobey Art Award explores contemporary art in Canada, bringing artists greater attention, both at home and on the world stage. One of the world’s most prestigious contemporary art prizes, it is awarded to an artist under 40 who has exhibited work within 18 months of being nominated. The five finalists for the 2019 Sobey Art Award have been announced by the Sobey Art Foundation and the National Gallery of Canada and their work will be featured in a group exhibition at the Art Gallery of Alberta this fall. The 2019 jury, chaired by National Gallery of Canada’s Senior Curator of Contemporary Art, Josée Drouin-Brisebois, is composed of  Peter Dykhuis (Director/Curator, Dalhousie Art Gallery), Jo-Ann Kane (Curator, National Bank Collection), Swapnaa Tamhane (Independent Curator, Artist, and Writer), Lindsey Sharman (Curator, Art Gallery of Alberta), Nigel Prince (Executive Director, Contemporary Art Gallery) and international juror Henriette Bretton-Meyer (Curator, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen, Denmark). By choosing one nominee from each of the five regions of Canada, the Sobey Art Award provides visibility and financial support to Canadian contemporary artists.  “The Sobey Art Award helps to keep the National Gallery of Canada current within the dynamic landscape of contemporary art in Canada.  It offers invaluable opportunities to exchange ideas between curators and artists across the country, and the chance to learn about a myriad of different artistic practices," notes Dr. Sasha Suda, CEO and Director of the National Gallery of Canada. “It’s an initiative that supports and promotes Canada’s talent at home and abroad, which is core to our mission and mandate as the Nation’s Gallery.”


D'Arcy Wilson (Atlantic)

D’Arcy Wilson,The Memorialist (Museology): Lagopus albus, Skin 45195, The American Museum of Natural History, 2016. Archival inkjet print, 51 x 75 cm. Photo: Chris Friel

D’Arcy Wilson creates mixed media installations centered around interactions with the natural world and the changes caused. Her latest body of work narrates the historical changes to nature inflicted by colonialism. "My work observes the transformation of nature into spectacle and the consequences, within the context of Settler culture. Throughout my art practice, I try to bind myself to the natural world either by inserting myself into wildernesses, or bestowing acts of kindness upon nature; nevertheless, the ability to understand and partake in this other world eludes me, " she states. Incorporating a mix of photography, video, drawings and performance, her works address the interventions of the past and present. Based in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, she has most recently exhibited at the Dalhousie Art Gallery in Halifax, at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton and in The Rooms in St John's.


Nicolas Grenier (Quebec)

Nicolas Grenier, Stasis/Turmoil; New Order/Previous Attempts, 2016. Oil and acrylic on canvas, 61 x 61cm. Private collection. Photo: Atelier Nicolas Grenier.

Nicolas Grenier’s paintings and architecturally-inspired installation work explores societal and contemporary issues while applying symbolic elements and the coding of colour. Structures and space inform his painting as much as his sculptural work, playing with opposites, tensions, inclusions and exclusions. "I am interested in the different spaces we inhabit — political, economic, cultural and social — and the principles or absences of principles at the root of these systems … I use the language or urban planning, architecture and diagrams to imagine different models, often absurd or perverted, that invoke and question the mechanisms through which different organic elements are combined to create structures that are more or less forced. "  Grenier divides his time between Montreal and Los Angeles and has exhibited both nationally and internationally, including in Athens, Bruges, Los Angeles and Montreal.


Stephanie Comilang (Ontario)

Stephanie Comilang, Yesterday In The Years 1886 & 2017, 2017. 2 channel video Installation, dimensions Variable. Courtesy of the Artist. Photo Credit : Art Gallery of Kitchener Waterloo

Filmmaker Stephanie Comilang is an artist based in Toronto and Berlin. Her documentary-led video works address migrant experiences, social inequality and isolation. In her recent work, Yesterday, In the Years 1886 and 2017, she considers "the connections that all migrants have” through the experiences and struggles they share. Comilang's work has been shown at Ghost : 2561 Bangkok Video & Performance Triennale, S.A.L.T.S Basel, UCLA, International Film Festival Rotterdam, and Asia Art Archive in America, New York. At a recent residency at the Tropical Futures Institute in Cebu in the Phillippines, she has been researching the linguistic history of the Eskaya tribe and its near extinction under Spanish colonialism.


Kablusiak (Prairies & the North)

Kablusiak, Listerine, 2018. Soapstone and tung oil, 18 x 9 x 4.5 cm. Private collection. Courtesy of the artist

Inuvialuk artist and curator Kablusiak employs multimedia to confront themes including diaspora, identity and control. Albeit imbued with humour, their work - video, drawing, carving and painting created in series – presents a destabilizing self-representation that, at the same time, reflects universal ideas of gender, solidarity and Indigenous sovereignty. Born in Yellowknife and based in Mohkinstsis, they have exhibited in Alberta and Quebec, as well as undertaken curatorial work in Banff, Calgary and Winnipeg.


Anne Low (West Coast & Yukon)

Anne Low,  A wall as a table with candlestick legs, 2018. Wood, wallpaper, textiles from the collections of Ann Wahlfors, Sorunda Hembygdsförening and Sorunda Hemslöjdsförening, Dimensions variable. Installation view, Sorunda Folkets Hus, Sweden. Commissioned by Tensta konsthal, Stockholm. Courtesy the artist. Photo: Jean Baptiste Beranger

Anne Low combines concepts of historical domestic objects and decorative elements to create installation work that presents a new character and identity for these objects in the present. Using sculpture, textiles and printmaking, Low is inspired by weaving and other craft techniques and uses them to reflect on historical interiors and processes. Living in Vancouver, she is currently based in Montreal. Her work has been exhibited in Vancouver, Berlin, Toronto and New York.


The Sobey Art Award exhibition of works by the five shortlisted artists will be presented at the Art Gallery of Alberta in Edmonton from October 5, 2019 to January 5, 2020. The winner of the Award will be announced at a gala hosted by the Art Gallery of Alberta on November 15, 2019. Share this article and also subscribe to our newsletters to stay up-to-date on the latest articles, Gallery exhibitions, news and events, and to learn more about art in Canada.​