Making art that matters: The 2017 Sobey Art Award

Artists are our cultural seers. At the core of great art is the grappling with profound issues and ideas facing society. Paul Kennedy talks to the the finalists of the prestigious 2017 Sobey Art Award — this country’s preeminent contemporary art award, which is judged by Canadian and international curators.
No. 3 of the series Rites, 2011, ink jet print on cotton paper, collection of Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, Jacynthe Carrier.
Listen to the full episode54:00

Artists are our cultural seers. At the core of great art is the grappling with profound issues and ideas facing our society. Paul Kennedy talks to the the finalists of the prestigious 2017 Sobey Art Award — this country's preeminent contemporary art award, which is judged by Canadian and international curators. The prize is worth in total $110,000.  In episode one, profiles of the four finalists: Raymond Boisjoly, Divya Mehra, Bridget Moser and Jacynthe Carrier. Part 2 profiles the 2017 Sobey Art Award winner, Ursula Johnson, and airs Friday, June 15. **This episode originally aired January 17, 2018.

So your child comes home one day and says: "Mom/Dad, I want to be an artist!"

Do you:

  • a) Envision your beautiful child, who could have easily been a doctor or a master electrician, toiling away in a tiny garrett — penniless and paint-splattered (that garret could be your reimagined basement).
  • b) Faint.
  • c) Take a big breath, and say: "Good for you — the world needs more artists."

If your answer is (c), listen to this episode!

The 2017 Sobey Art Award finalists are smart, engaging and thriving young artists — some with parents who had initial concerns with the viability of their career choice. 

Listening to them speak about their work, and their compulsion to make art that matters, art that questions who we are and where we're heading, is uplifting in a world that can sometimes feel a little colourless and grey. And if you're a young artist hoping someday to be shortlisted for the Sobey Art Award, you'll find in them a little inspiration in your noble quest. For the rest of our audience, this show is a celebration of young artists and art. Enjoy!

The 2017 Sobey Art Award, Part 1. 1:19

Meet the five fascinating artists — from across the country — who are the 2017 finalists and winner of the prestigious Sobey Art Award

Raymond Boisjoly, Sobey Art Finalist representing West Coast and Yukon

"Art sort of cannibalizes the world, renders it for its own uses. And what distinguishes art from non-art — it's a changing boundary… I guess just trying to be attentive to that dynamic, and to setting up an encounter for people to see things differently. The way it's described is often defamiliarization."

Divya Mehra, Sobey Art Finalist representing Prairies and North

"...in a lot of my work ... I'm hoping ... a conversation that does arise is: how do we view each other. I don't know if I'll ever stop having that conversation. It's always a thread that's very present throughout my practice. So how do we view each other, how does that translate into ideas of power, or privilege, or respect. And when I think, before I die, in how many ever years that is, it's like, would that conversation ever be resolved? I don't think so."

Bridget Moser, Sobey Art Finalist representing Ontario

"I also feel like being a performance artist is so different too, because how do you gauge success in that regard ... to me it's not super interesting to gauge the success of art based...on sales or something like that in the first place. But ... I feel really excited about a lot of the artists from my generation that are coming into more prominent positions right now."

Jacynthe Carrier, Sobey Art Finalist representing Quebec

"What I am interested in, or I'm fascinated by, is movement. Is how things are fluid. And how poetry is in very small things and subtle things. And you don't know how it happens, it's just this moment where things come together, and the poetry is there."

Ursula Johnson, Sobey Art Winner, representing Atlantic 

Ursula Johnson on a role and responsibility of the artist in society

"... to use the freedom of our voice and our materials to speak up on behalf of people who don't have the privilege to be able to speak up."

**This episode was produced by Mary Lynk.

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