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Provocative, experimental, challenging: 2017 Governor General's Media and Visual Arts winners announced

Artist Glenn Lewis, whose best-known ceramics work was once rejected for display at a World Expo by the federal government, is among the winners of this year's Governor General's Awards in Visual and Media Arts.

Work by this year's winners on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery beginning April 8

The winners of the 2017 Governor General's Visual and Media Arts Awards include Montreal filmmaker Michèle Cournoyer, Toronto filmmaker Mike Hoolboom, Toronto artist Shelagh Keeley, Vancouver artist Glenn Lewis, Vancouver painter Landon Mackenzie, Toronto writer/curator Philip Monk, multimedia artist Shelley Niro of the Six Nations Of The Grand River and Halifax jewelry artist Pamela Ritchie. (Governor General's Visual and Media Arts Awards/Canada Council for the Arts)

A sculptor whose best-known ceramics work was once rejected for display at a World Expo by the federal government is among the winners of this year's Governor General's Awards in Visual and Media Arts.

Glenn Lewis is one of eight laureates who will be honoured by the Canada Council for the Arts, the organization announced Wednesday.

The Vancouver artist shook the art scene with his 1970 piece Artifact, which was commissioned by Canada for the World Expo in Osaka, Japan but rejected by the pavilion's commissioner Patrick Reid as too provocative.

Reid was concerned over the appearance of the work's white-glazed tiles, which looked like either salt-and-pepper shakers or damaged phalluses. After the debacle, the government refused to pay Lewis the final instalment for his work.

Lewis also joined the live performance art community with his synchronized swimming routines featuring shark-fin aquatic caps designed by artist Kate Craig.

Glenn Lewis's synchronized swimming routine featured participants performing in shark-fin aquatic caps. (Canadian Press)

Other recipients of the $25,000 honour include Montreal filmmaker and animator Michèle Cournoyer, whose career in the Quebec new wave movement of the 1970s led to experimental animation shorts like Le chapeau, which won best Canadian short at the 2000 Toronto International Film Festival.

Toronto writer Philip Monk, both an exhibition curator and contemporary art critic for Maclean's magazine, is also being honoured.

The other laureates are:

"Our finest artists challenge us to ask questions and to look deeper into our surroundings, to think more critically and to better appreciate beauty," Gov. Gen. David Johnston said in a statement.

He will present the awards at a ceremony at Rideau Hall on March 1.

An exhibition of selected works from this year's winners will run at the Winnipeg Art Gallery from April 8 to Sept. 4.

The Canada Council funds and administers the awards, which recognize career achievements. 

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