Ideas

The Prairies & North - Divya Mehra

The 2017 Sobey Art Award: The Prairies & North - Divya Mehra
2017 Sobey Art Award finalist Divya Mehra.

The Sobey Art Award is Canada's pre-eminent award for contemporary Canadian art. The annual prize is given to an artist under age 40, who has exhibited in a public or commercial art gallery within 18 months of being nominated.  


Working in sculpture, print, drawing, artist books, installation, advertising, video, and most recently film, Divya Mehra is known for her meticulous attention to the interaction of form, medium, and site. Through an acerbic tone, she addresses the long-term effects of colonization and institutional racism. Re-contextualizing references found in hip hop, literature, and current affairs, she contends with contemporary expressions of societies (India, America, Canada) continuously formed by their colonial roots. Mehra's practice explores diasporic identities, racialization, otherness, and the construct of "diversity." Mehra's work has been included in a number of exhibitions and screenings, notably with Creative Time, MoMA PS1, MTV, and The Queens Museum of Art (New York), MASS MoCA (North Adams), Artspeak (Vancouver), The Images Festival (Toronto), The Beijing 798 Biennale (Beijing), Bielefelder Kunstverein (Bielefeld), and Latitude 28 (Delhi). Mehra holds an MFA from Columbia University and is represented in Toronto by Georgia Scherman Projects. She currently divides her time between Winnipeg, Delhi, and New York.

2017 Sobey Art Award Juror Jenifer Paparo on Divya Mehra 

Divya Mehra's work is an astute example of how art can destabilize our collective and individual perceptions about race and gender. She has a sensitive but terse eye that is directly able to address identity politics in a manner that is immediate: it doesn't pander and isn't waylaid by over-contextualizing. She does this through pop cultural lines, manipulating common signs into pointed and, at times, barbed commentary that references the caution and insincerity of a forced political correctness. Mehra's work carries a relevance that aims to be transformative, advancing a conversation surrounding identity. How our behaviours and responses contribute to a status quo that gives voice to diversity yet remains steadfast in its commitment to old hierarchies.


The Art of Divya Mehra

Modernity at Large (othering the Other), 2015, sugar, corn syrup, dextrose, glycerine, artificial flavors & colors, gelatin, vegetable gums. (Meghan Krauss)
The Bitch Blues (where does the Divide begin?), 2014, acrylic ink and sizzurp. Photo: Georgia Scherman Projects. ( Georgia Scherman Projects)
There are Greater Tragedies, 2014, 70 denier high tenacity nylon. (Georgia Scherman Projects)
I will split up my Father’s empire (after N.W.A.), 2011, neon sculpture. (Blaine Campbell)
Real Estate Tycoon, 2010, lithography on Chorus Art Silk FSC, in Border Crossing Magazine, volume 29 issue 115, edition of 5500. Photo: Karen Asher. (Karen Asher)

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