2011 Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts

Ottawa, Ontario - March 23, 2011

National Gallery of Canada honours eight laureates with tribute exhibition.
On view from March 25 to June 19, 2011

Continuing an annual tradition that dates back to 1999, the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) presents the Governor General's Awards in Visual and Media Arts, an exhibition that pays tribute to the award recipients and is organized in collaboration with the Canada Council for the Arts and His Excellency David Johnston, the Governor General of Canada.

On display in the NGC’s lower contemporary art galleries (B107) from March 25 to June 19, 2011 is a selection of works by this year’s laureates: photographer Geneviève Cadieux; visual artist Robert Fones; performance and visual artist Michael Morris; filmmaker David Rimmer; filmmaker Barbara Sternberg; painter Shirley Wiitasalo; metalsmith Kye-Yeon Son; and art critic Nancy Tousley. Most are drawn from the collections of the National Gallery of Canada and the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography.

“We are always honoured to participate in this annual celebration of Canadian achievement,” said Marc Mayer, NGC Director. “The exhibition of works created by this year’s laureates testifies to the strengths of Canadian culture. These people have not only had exceptional careers, they are continuing to produce works that challenge and inspire us.”

Highlights of the exhibition
Geneviève Cadieux has been exhibiting her large-scale photo-based works since the 1980s. Many of these take the form of enlarged portraits that draw a parallel between the photographic process, where film is imprinted by light, and the similar way in which personal history can be written on the body. Blind (2004-05) is a recent expression of this approach, using landscape in lieu of the body to translate the metaphor.

Since the mid-1970s, Robert Fones has been exploring systems of industrial communication, and how various societies at different points in history have used symbols and letterforms to convey their ideas. The Leviathan Series (2008) was inspired by the grammatical complexity of British philosopher Thomas Hobbes’ 1651 publication Leviathan and its focus on the creation of artificial life.

Alex & Rodger, Rodger & Alex (1970) is one of Michael Morris’s first forays into photography. Behind the camera, he became the catalyst to a series of unrehearsed acts, each captured by a snapshot. Conceived of primarily as a “happening,” the process of making this work was just as important as the final product. From a fixed viewpoint, each scene tracks the movement of the sun’s reflection within the frame, dividing it into dark and light until the two sides eventually become unified, reflecting the experiences of the two protagonists in this series.

Treating film and video as his canvas, David Rimmer creates works that are avant-garde experimentations combining found footage, techniques of optical and contact printing and innovative, often collaboratively written soundtracks. Some are pure abstract paintings in motion, some are intimate portraits and social studies that explode traditional notions of the documentary, while others are deftly edited compilations of clips manipulated to present conceptual meditations on the nature of the cinematic image. On display is a 15-minute loop of excerpts from his most acclaimed work produced from 1970-2007. See schedule of full screenings below.

Influenced by the writings of Gertrude Stein, Virginia Wolfe and David Hume, Barbara Sternberg creates poignant, contemplative films that offer meditations on the ephemeral nature of everyday life. Her works explore how we, as humans, attempt to make sense of our place in the world. Transferring Super-8 images to 16mm film through the optical printing process, Sternberg’s signature style involves creating purposefully imperfect layers of imagery and sound that collapse space and time, and reflect the materiality of both film and the body. On display is a 15-minute loop of excerpts from her most acclaimed work produced from 1979-2008. See schedule of full screenings below.

For over thirty years, Shirley Wiitasalo has used painting to investigate the conventions of pictorial representation. Many of the themes in her earlier works were derived from personal experiences and surroundings. For instance, witnessing a desolate tree growing in a parking lot near Wiitasalo’s Toronto home inspired Park (1992), on view. Gold Blue (2007) and Gold (2008), also on display, exemplify the artist’s recent shift from representational subject matter to complete abstraction.

Kye-Yeon Son (Saidye Bronfman Award recipient) is known for her talents both as a metalsmith and jeweller. Expanding upon traditional techniques of soldering, enameling, hammering and welding, Son pushes the boundaries of her chosen medium, creating delicately elegant objects that act as vessels for that which is intangible – emotions, desires and memories. On view is a selection of her prized serving ware, vases and sculpture.

As an art critic for the Calgary Herald, a contributing editor to Canadian Art magazine, and the newly appointed critic in residence at the Alberta College of Art and Design, Nancy Tousley (Outstanding Contribution recipient) has been a distinctive voice in the dialogue on contemporary Canadian art. Her range of critical material expands beyond print journalism to include exhibition catalogues, journals and several blogs. A selection of her writings is on display.

Film Screenings
The following films by Barbara Sternberg and David Rimmer will be presented in the Lecture Hall. Admission is free.

David Rimmer (130 minutes total)
Saturday March 26 at 2 pm and Thursday May 19 at 6 pm
Migration, 1969; Real Italian Pizza, 1973; Fracture, 1973; Watching for the Queen, 1973; Canadian Pacific, 1974; Canadian Pacific II, 1975; Narrows Inlet, 1980; Along the Road to Altamira, 1986; Local Knowledge, 1992.

Barbara Sternberg (127 minutes total)
Thursday March 31 at 6 pm and Saturday April 30 at 2 pm
A Trilogy, 1985; At Present, 1990; Through and Through, 1992.

David Rimmer and Barbara Sternberg (195 minutes total)
Saturday April 16 at 2 pm
David Rimmer, Migration, 1969; David Rimmer, Watching for the Queen, 1973; David Rimmer, Canadian Pacific, 1974; Barbara Sternberg, A Trilogy, 1985; David Rimmer, Along the Road to Altamira, 1986; David Rimmer, Local Knowledge, 1992; Barbara Sternberg, Through and Through, 1992.

About the National Gallery of Canada
The National Gallery of Canada is home to the most important collections of historical and contemporary Canadian art, including the extensive collection of the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography. The Gallery also maintains Canada's premier collection of European Art from the 14th to the 21st century, as well as important works of American, Asian and Indigenous Art and renowned international collections of prints, drawings and photographs. Created in 1880, the National Gallery of Canada has played a key role in Canadian culture for well over a century. Among its principal missions is to increase access to excellent works of art for all Canadians. To do so, it maintains the largest touring art exhibition programme in the world. For more information, visit gallery.ca.

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For more information on the exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada, please contact:
Josée-Britanie Mallet
Senior Media and Public Relations Officer
National Gallery of Canada

Claire Schofield
Manager, Communications and Public Relations
National Gallery of Canada

Canada Council for the Arts Media Kits
An electronic press kit complete with video interviews, nomination statements and event listings as well as images of the artists and their works is available on the Canada Council for the Arts’ website at: http://www.canadacouncil.ca/prizes/ggavma

To arrange interviews with the GGAVMA winners, please contact:
Diane Chaperon-Lor, Canada Council National Publicist
416-653-0849/Cell.: 416-788-8271