Stephanie Comilang: Winner of the 2019 Sobey Art Award

Stephanie Comilang, Lumapit Sa Akin, Paraiso (Come to Me, Paradise), 2016. 3-channel HD video with colour and sound (25:44 min), cardboard, dimensions variable. Installation view of the Sobey Art Award Exhibition, Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton, 2019. © Stephanie Comilang, courtesy the artist. Photo : Leroy Schultz

Stephanie Comilang is the winner of the 2019 Sobey Art Award. The filmmaker, representing the Ontario region, claimed the prize at this evening’s Sobey Art Award Gala at the Art Gallery of Alberta. Reflecting on the award, the artist stated: "Representation is everything. Can we see ourselves in the wider world? Winning the Sobey Art Award and representing a demographic that looks like me hopefully let's others know the limitless possibilities of who you can be as an artist."

The process of dispersion, of being diasporic is the root of Stephanie Comilang’s films as she shows how migrants, particularly women, create their own space. Her characters exist within a Deleuzian fold of time/ space, a compressed experience of several realities with sticky residues from the hangovers of colonialisms, procuring territory through digital technology. Her films take the disembodied experience of the migrant from a location that has endured several colonialisms and dictatorships, and place these slippery, indescribable sensations of being everywhere and nowhere into a drone-camera-cyborg-mythic being. Comilang’s perspective was perhaps influenced by growing up in Toronto, with a father who is an Elvis impersonator, and by observing how the Filipino diaspora has defined her own space within the domestic and public realm. Through the drone-camera the artist can access locations; she can get into a tight frame, close to her subjects; she can provide vantage points where other cameras fail. She takes over surveillance, and instead of directly critiquing the mechanics of war, her usage of this technology points to methods of how bodies are utilized for purposes of various economics of labour, whether domestic, militaristic or revolutionary. Comilang herself becomes the surveyor, ultimately taking a chimeric position of power and ownership into her own hands, mirroring how migrant women create and hold their own space, both real and digital.


Sobey Art Award 2019 - Stephanie Comilang


Sobey Art Award 2019, jointly administered by the National Gallery of Canada and the Sobey Art Foundation, is hosted by the Art Gallery of Alberta in Edmonton, where the exhibition is on view until January 5, 2020. This article is an edited extract from the accompanying Sobey Art Award 2019 catalogue. Share this article and 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.​

About the Author