Takao Tanabe, Gathie Falk win $30K Audain Prize for art

Two veteran West Coast artists — painter and sculptor Gathie Falk and landscape painter Takao Tanabe — have been named winners of the $30,000 Audain Prize.

Abstract artist Elizabeth McIntosh wins VIVA award

Columbia Plateau 7/96, 1996 by Tak Tanabe, acryclic on canvas. Tanabe is one of the winners of the Audain Prize. (Trevor Mills/Vancouver Art Gallery)

Two veteran West Coast artists — painter and sculptor Gathie Falk and landscape painter Takao Tanabe — have been named winners of the $30,000 Audain Prize.

The prize, sponsored by Vancouver art collector and philanthropist Michael Audain, is awarded annually to a B.C. artist for  lifetime achievement. It is the 10th anniversary of the award, which has previously gone to artists such as Jeff Wall, Rodney Graham, E.J. Hughes and Marian Penner Bancroft.

The winners were announced Friday night by the Vancouver Art Gallery, along with the winner of VIVA Award.

Abstract artist Elizabeth McIntosh, a teacher at Emily Carr University, is this year’s winner of the VIVA, presented by the Jack and Doris Shadbolt Foundation for the Visual Arts to a B.C. artists who demonstrate exceptional creative ability and commitment.

Tanabe was born in Seal Cove, B.C. and interned with his family during the Second World War. After graduating from Winnipeg School of Art in 1949, he furthered his studies in New York and travelled in Europe on an Emily Carr scholarship.  He moved to Vancouver Island in 1980.

Now 86, he continues to paint at the studio he built on his remote property on the B.C. coast.

"I’m slowing down and the paintings are getting darker I think — darker sky, darker sunsets, more dramatic," said the artist, who has been painting for 60 years.

He is fascinated by the seascapes and landscapes of the West Coast, but says his work is now focused on wilder weather.

Many of his earliest landscapes capture a moment of stillness against a broad horizon, including his series featuring Prairie scenes, done when he was head of the Art Department at the Banff School of Fine Arts in the 1970s.

Tanabe said he’s not thinking of retiring — he’s too busy, with three exhibitions last year and another coming up in April of next year.

Sculptures in ceramic and paper mache

Manitoba-born Falk worked as an elementary teacher in British Columbia while she studied fine art before becoming a full-time artist in 1965.

Falk, a past recipient of the Governor General’s Award for Visual Arts and the Order of Canada, is known for her ceramic sculptures such as Eight Red Shoes, part of the National Gallery of Canada collection and 196 Apples, at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Her  sculptures of paper mache and everyday objects, sometimes in an unusual environment,  are dreamlike and amusing.

Now 83, she still paints in the studio she built on her property in a blue-collar neighbourhood in East Vancouver.

"I’m doing something I’ve never done before and that is abstract art, large abstract paintings," she said, adding that she continues to work as a sculptor.

"I’ve always been a lover of American abstract art. It is to me the biggest thrill," she said. "I’m an expressionist and I’ve been drawn to that…all my work was expressionistic — that is painting in very bright colours — but that didn’t go over at all in the 1960s."

She abandoned the abstract style in 1965, but now says she is preparing both abstract and realist paintings for her next show.

Falk, Tanabe and McIntosh will be honoured April 4 at the Vancouver Art Gallery.