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2013 Governor General's Awards: National Gallery of Canada exhibition celebrates recipients
Rebecca Belmore, The Named and the Unnamed 2002. Digital video, projection screen, and light bulbs, 244 x 274 cm (approx.) National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Photo: Howard Ursuliak, courtesy of the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, The University of British Columbia.

OTTAWA.- From Friday, March 22 to Sunday, June 23, 2013, visitors to the National Gallery of Canada will be able to admire outstanding works by the seven recipients of the prestigious 2013 Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts, awarded by the Canada Council for the Arts, in an exhibition that pays tribute to the laureates. The exhibition is organized by the NGC in collaboration with the Canada Council for the Arts and His Excellency The Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada.

Significant pieces by painter and sculptor Marcel Barbeau; performance artist Rebecca Belmore; filmmaker and director William MacGillivray; sound artist and composer Gordon Monahan; artist-potter Greg Payce, recipient of the Saidye Bronfman Award; and sculptor Colette Whiten are showcased in the exhibition, as is the outstanding contribution of curator and art critic Chantal Pontbriand. The exhibition includes both loans from the laureates and works from the collection of the National Gallery of Canada.

“Once again this year, we are proud to present an exhibition that unites the outstanding works of these great Canadian artists, whose powerful artistic contributions have been shaping our visual arts landscapes for decades,” said NGC director and CEO Marc Mayer.

The Awards, funded and administered for the 14th year by the Canada Council for the Arts, were announced March 12 during a press conference held in Montreal. They recognize distinguished career achievements in the visual and media arts by Canadian artists, as well as outstanding contributions through voluntarism, philanthropy, board governance, community outreach or professional activities.

Exhibition Highlights
Marcel Barbeau was an original signatory member of Les Automatistes, the group that sought to gain freedom from academic painting and liberation from the rigid social and political climate in 1940s Quebec. Nadja embodies this movement’s exploration with automatic gesture. Exploring geometric abstraction, Barbeau’s biomorphic work Tomac references both the work of his mentor Paul-Émile Borduas and Henri Bergson’s theory of memory. Barbeau then investigated Op Art in two styles: minimalism (Red Undulations 2) and kinetic illusionism (Retina – don’t bug me). Despite several manifestations over the decades, Barbeau has always been concerned with movement, form and colour in space. Diamonds, Bridges of Stars is an expressive climax in his oeuvre.

Rebecca Belmore, Canada’s representative at the 2005 Venice Biennale, has received international acclaim for her provocative works in performance, installation, photography and video that address the politics of Indigenous representation, voice and identity. Central to her practice is the way the body can be used to invoke presence and absence, give visibility to the disenfranchised and commemorate acts of ritual, violence or resistance. The Named and the Unnamed stems from her 2002 performance in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside that drew attention to the disappearance of dozens of women from that area. The installation functions as a form of protest and memorial, forcing the viewer into a conscious act of witnessing.

Colette Whiten’s works collectively explore the power relationships inherent in gender, mass media representation and politics. She has created life-size plaster casts of men and women; embroidered and beaded tapestries that translate news images into delicate matrices of glass and thread; and monumental public sculptures, each with a consistent sensitivity towards scale, space and temporality. In Haitians Watch, a fleeting print photo is given permanence and weight through her laborious handwork, while in Watermark she sculpts an intimate wall relief from a family snapshot, raising “home life” from the realm of the mundane to that of art.

Gordon Monahan creates kinetic sculptures, computer-controlled sound environments, avant-garde compositions and video installations that explore the inherent aural properties of his materials. He is also the director of the annual Electric Eclectics Festival held in Meaford, Ontario. Often juxtaposing natural and technological acoustic phenomena, his works range from lo-tech experiments to highly sophisticated productions, and seek to imbue architecture with a sonic dynamism while harnessing the bodily energy of the performers who may activate them. In Resonant Platinum Records, Monahan use analogue synthesis techniques to activate the resonant frequencies of this quartet of disc sculptures, stringing them to vibrate with the oscillation of their motorized suspension system.

A forerunner in the development of independent filmmaking in Eastern Canada, William MacGillivray was a founding member of the Atlantic Filmmakers Co-operative and runs his production company Picture Plant (incorporated in 1981) from Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. A director, editor, writer and producer of more than twenty feature-length films, documentaries, shorts and television series, MacGillivray articulates stories of locality, community and identity from an Atlantic point of view, situating his subjects within a broader global context while subtly interrogating the medium of film itself. Linda Joy is an assemblage of friend and fellow filmmaker Linda Joy Busby’s footage, compiled and edited posthumously by MacGillivray to poignantly chronicle Busby’s struggle with cancer in her final days.

Further screenings of William MacGillivray’s work will take place on Thursday evenings throughout April, at 6 pm in the NGC Auditorium:

4 April: I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art 1987 – (1:28 min.)
11 April: Life Classes 1988 – (1:56 min.)
18 April: Silent Messengers 2005 – (1:33 min.)
25 April: The Man of a Thousand Songs 2010 – (1:30 min.)

Greg Payce has taken the field of ceramics beyond the realms of sculpture and function into the territory of abstraction, of optics and even cinema. His work ranges from intimate terracotta vessels that meld classical forms with contemporary decorative references, to life-size vases that manipulate positive and negative space and challenge the relationship between humans and our domestic objects. Pantheon represents the culmination of many of his interests and is the first work he re-mediated to produce lenticular images and video installations. Here, silhouettes spun into three-dimensional forms and grouped strategically to confuse the boundary between “figure” and “ground,” bring a sense of dynamism, illusion and gender-bending whimsy to the traditional Greco-Roman frieze.

A self-defined “live curator,” Chantal Pontbriand has made an unparalleled contribution to the visual arts in Canada. Working variously as curator, art historian, editor and critic, she was the founder of PARACHUTE contemporary art magazine – Canada’s leading international journal of art criticism and theory – and Festival international de nouvelle danse (FIND). Recently she held the title of head of exhibition research and development at Tate Modern. While juggling her many positions from the 1970s through to the present, she maintains an active curatorial career with PONTBRIAND W.O.R.K.S [We_Others and Myself_Research_Knowledge_Systems]. Her writings concentrate on cultural hybridity and globalization related to art and contemporaneity, and touch upon issues of artistic, social and political relevance.

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