Two Winnipeg artists are in the running for the Sobey Art Award. The annual prize worth $50,000 is awarded to a contemporary Canadian artist under the age of 40.
The 2013 long list has 25 artists representing regions from across the country. Among the five nominees representing the prairies and the North are painter Simon Hughes and multimedia artist Divya Mehra.
For Hughes, being nominated for an art prize like the Sobey is a welcome nod. "I think these prizes are great, since they generate a lot of talk. Even
if people are complaining about the lists, it's still good for the
discussion around contemporary art," he said.
"The Sobey in particular is very
important in Canada, since it is a very generous amount which, aside
from the obvious reward to one artist, makes people take the whole
enterprise of art-making in Canada more seriously."
I am the American Dream (still just a Paki), 2010,1987 Gold Jaguar Vanden Plas by Divya Mehra (Larry Glawson)
Mehra agreed, also noting the having a long list of nominees also helps highlight the range of art-making happening in Canada.
"An art prize is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate artistic
achievement, creativity, and innovation. The 2013 Sobey long list is
really quite diverse, and you can attribute that to the curators behind
each region," she said.
For Hughes, the timing of this nomination was also welcome. "I am very pleased. I know that my name has been put forward before, but
I've never actually got tapped for the long list until now. I am
pushing the end of the age qualification window so it's great to be
Both Hughes and Mehra have worked as instructors at the University of Manitoba's School of Art. Hughes also worked as a motion-picture scenic painter but gradually quit his day job over the last few years and is currently working full-time as an artist.
Fractured Monochrome #3, oil on birch panel, 2011 by Simon Hughes
Though he has no specific plans for what he would spend the money on if he won the award, Hughes is certain it would be put to good use.
"I'm sure I might not even know what I did with it as it would disappear
quickly into the general cocktail of artist-sustaining expenses -
materials, books, car repairs, food, diapers, travel."
Hughes is currently prepping for a show in New York in the fall and one in Toronto in January, while Mehra is finishing a video commission for Creative Time NYC,
MoMA PS1, and MTV Networks Worldwide before heading to Toronto for the summer to work on her first large collaborative commission with a group of Canadian artists for a project commissioned by Luminato Festival for the Arts. The five finalists for the Sobey Art Award will be announced in June and the winner will be named in October. In addition to the $50,000 prize for the winner, the four other finalists will each receive $5,000. The award is organized and administered by the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.