The New Masters: A conversation with 2022 Sobey Art Award winner and finalists

How did the iconic Taj Mahal get turned into a bouncy castle? Artist and winner of the 2022 Sobey Art Award, Divya Mehra explains the meaning behind her art installation and joins the four finalists in a conversation that celebrates where new art is taking us.

‘Bold artistic visions of the five finalists…engage in pertinent global conversations,’ says Jury Chair

Collage of headshots of the artists Azza El Siddique, Divya Mehra, Stanley Février, Krystle Silverfox and Tyshan Wright.
Clockwise from top left: Azza El Siddique, Divya Mehra, Stanley Février, Krystle Silverfox, Tyshan Wright. (Photos courtesy of the Sobey Art Award)

The distinguished Sobey Art Award  is one of the most celebrated art prizes in Canada, recognized around the world. 

Since its creation in 2002, the annual award has had "an undeniable impact on the careers of Canadian contemporary artists," according to the Sobey Art Foundation. Finalists are selected from five regions across Canada. The top prize is $100,000 CAD, short-listed artists each get $25,000, and $10,000 goes to each of the remaining long-listed artists. 

In late 2022, after the award ceremony IDEAS producer Mary Lynk spoke to the recent winner and finalists at the National Gallery of Canada where works from each artist are exhibited.

The acclaimed art ranges from an exploration of what it means to be a Maroon; to reimagining the iconic and controversial Hudson Bay Blanket; to influences of the Egyptian sun god's regeneneration from death to rebirth; to the compelling power of tombstones when representing exclusion and finally the meaning behind turning the iconic Taj Mahal into a bouncy castle. 

Winner: Divya Mehra, representing Prairies and the North 

Divya Mehra's work highlights the difficult realities of displacement, loss, neutrality and oppression among diasporic communities. 

An art piece of a bouncy castle in bright green and red that looks like the Taj Mahal.
caption for art installation

Finalist: Azza El Siddique, representing Ontario

Azza El Siddique is informed by the ancient history of present-day Sudan, including Egyptian and Nubian mythology. 

art installation
Azza El Siddique, Measure of One, 2020, steel, expanded steel, water, unfired slip clay, slow-drip irrigation system, EPDM pond liner, cement bricks. Collection of the artist. (© Azza El Siddique/Photo: National Gallery of Canada)

Finalist: Stanley Février, representing Quebec

Stanley Février is a multidisciplinary artist who was a social worker before becoming a full-time artist — two practices that have become inextricably linked in his work. His art uses strategies of institutional critique to expose discrimination and cultural erasure in the art world.

An art installation with thick white block chairs facing forward and a video screen in a corner. It is unclear what is underneath the video.
Stanley Février, Installation view, 2022 Sobey Art Award Exhibition, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Oct. 28, 2022 to March 12, 2023. Collection of the artist. (© Stanley Février/Photo: National Gallery of Canada)

Finalist: Krystle Silverfox, representing West Coast and Yukon

Krystle Silverfox is a member of the Selkirk First Nation (Wolf Clan). She lives and works on the territory of the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in (Dawson City, Yukon). As an interdisciplinary artist, her work explores methodologies, and symbols to create conceptual works. 

HBC wool blanket that has black, grey and lighter grey ... there are strands falling to the ground and hitting the floor as it is not finished. The tapestry is hanging from a wood frame.
Krystle Silverfox, All That Glitters is Not Gold..., 2019, HBC wool blanket, cedar frame, copper pennies. Collection of the artist. ( © Krystle Silverfox / Photo: National Gallery of Canada )

Finalist: Tyshan Wright, representing Atlantic 

Tyshan Wright is primarily a self-taught artist. His art practice is entwined with the legacy of the Maroon people and in the visual lexicon of the African diaspora.

An art installation in a dark, low-lit space with a video screen under a makeshift-tent ... blanket over it and two chairs. To the right is stones in a circle with wood for a fire pit.
Tyshan Wright, Installation view, 2022 Sobey Art Award Exhibition, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Oct. 28, 2022 to March 12, 2023. Collection of the artist. (© Tyshan Wright/Photo: National Gallery of Canada)

This episode was produced by Mary Lynk. Artist descriptions taken from the Sobey Art Award site where you can find more information about each artist.

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