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Nine Laureates Announced on 10th Anniversary of Governor General's Awards in Visual and Media Arts
Governor General's Awards in Visual and Media Arts 2009. Photo: Martin Lipman, Canada Council for the Arts.

OTTAWA.- The Canada Council for the Arts today announced the names of the nine laureates of the 2009 Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts at the National Gallery of Canada. This year is the 10th anniversary of these prestigious awards.

Sculpture artist John Greer, sculptor, musician, and performer
Nobuo Kubota, interdisciplinary artist Rita McKeough, filmmaker
Robert Morin, architect Raymond Moriyama, and painter Gordon Smith will receive awards for artistic achievement. Glass sculptor
Kevin Lockau will receive the Saidye Bronfman Award for excellence in the fine crafts, while Tony Urquhart and Kim Ondaatje will share the outstanding contribution award for their work in establishing CARFAC, the Canadian Artists’ Representation/Le Front des artistes canadiens, the national voice of Canada’s professional visual artists.

They will be presented with their awards by Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada, at a ceremony at Rideau Hall on Wednesday, March 25 at 6 p.m. In addition to a $25,000 prize, the winners will receive a work created by printmaker Kenojuak Ashevak, winner of a 2008 Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts.

The Awards, funded and administered by the Canada Council for the Arts, were created in June 1999 and awarded for the first time in March 2000. The awards recognize distinguished career achievements in the visual and media arts by Canadian artists, as well as outstanding contributions to the visual and media arts through voluntarism, philanthropy, board governance, community outreach or professional activities.

The Saidye Bronfman Award, which recognizes excellence in the fine crafts, is part of the Governor General’s Awards. It is funded from the proceeds of a $1.5 million endowment given to the Canada Council by The Samuel and Saidye Bronfman Family Foundation in 2006.

"The works of our artists do more than just bring a little colour and beauty into our lives. They cast a new light onto our world so that we can observe it and contemplate it in ways we might never have imagined. Let us pay tribute to these pathfinders who guide us to look beyond the horizon," said the Governor General.

“Each of this year’s winners has had a significant impact on the Canadian arts scene,” noted Canada Council Chair Joseph Rotman. “Their creativity is not only seen in galleries and homes across the country and around the world but in the cities where we live and work. The diversity of their work and their dedication to their art speaks volumes for the depth of artistic talent in Canada today.”

John Greer
John Greer was the catalyst behind “Halifax Sculpture,” a 1990s movement, rooted in minimalism and conceptualism. He taught at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design for over 25 years, was a founding member of one of Canada’s first artist-run centres (Eyelevel Gallery), and is a long-term supporter of CARFAC (Canadian Artists’ Representation/Le Front des artistes canadiens). Over the past 30 years, Greer’s work has been included in some 60 group and 50 solo exhibitions, and in over 20 collections at home and abroad. He received several grants and awards, and public commissions including Gathering, 2001, Yongsang Family Park, Seoul, Korea; Reflection, 2001, Memorial to Canadian Aid Workers, Ottawa; and Origins, 1995, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax. John Greer lives in West Dublin, Nova Scotia.

Nobuo Kubota
Nobuo Kubota has been contributing to Canadian art for over 40 years as musician, sculptor and performer. An early member of the Artists Jazz Band and the CCMC (Canadian Creative Music Collective), he is known for his extended vocal techniques and sound poetry. In 1970 he spent a year in Japan, which was a turning point in his career. This period led him to investigate the influence of Zen Buddhism and Shintoism on Japanese art and architecture. His work is included in the collections of Canada’s major art institutions and has shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions and performances across Canada and abroad. In 2000, he received a Canada Council Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Award for his outstanding artistic achievement. Nobuo Kubota was born in Vancouver and lives in Toronto.

Rita McKeough
Rita McKeough has been working as an interdisciplinary artist for over 30 years, and has contributed to Canada’s strong reputation in performance and installation art. Her work has been shown in artist-run centres, museums, galleries and festivals across the country. Her performances and installations – often complex, collaborative efforts – touch on issues such as displacement, domestic abuse and ecological damage. A source of inspiration and encouragement for many young artists, she is currently an instructor at the Alberta College of Art and Design and taught for several years at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. She is a drummer in a rock band and performs regularly at small Calgary venues. Rita McKeough was born in Antigonish, Nova Scotia and now lives in Calgary, Alberta.

Robert Morin
Robert Morin has contributed to the film and video scene for over 30 years. Early in his career, he sought to ensure creative independence by founding, with other artists, the Coop Vidéo de Montréal. His 30 or so short, medium and feature-length works have earned him numerous prizes and special mentions in Canada and abroad. In 1991, Morin and Lorraine Dufour received the Canada Council for the Arts’ Bell Canada Prize in video art. His work has been the subject of numerous retrospectives, primarily in France and Canada. In 2002, Vidéographe, in collaboration with Coop Vidéo, released a DVD box set of his video works, entitled The Videomaker’s Journey (1976–1997). He is completing his latest project, Journal d’un coopérant, which is currently being shot in Burundi. Robert Morin lives in Montréal.

Raymond Moriyama
Raymond Moriyama’s fascination with architecture began at age four. By age 12, he had constructed a tree house near the B.C. interior internment camp where he, his sisters and mother were sent during WWII. Moriyama has designed some of Canada’s most notable buildings, including the Canadian War Museum (Ottawa), the Bata Shoe Museum (Toronto), and Science North (Sudbury). He gained international acclaim for the National Museum of Saudi Arabia and the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo, among others. Known for buildings that balance harmoniously with landscape and encourage civic engagement, he has received numerous awards, including an Honorary Fellowship in the American Institute of Architects, a Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Gold Medal (1997) and a Companion of the Order of Canada (2008). Raymond Moriyama lives in Toronto.

Gordon Smith
Gordon Smith’s significant contribution as an artist and educator spans 60 years. In 1955, he won first prize at the National Gallery of Canada’s biennial of Canadian art, and quickly became recognized as one of the country’s leading modernist painters. A subtle colourist who relishes the actuality of paint, his work has been featured in numerous Canadian and international solo and group exhibitions. His many major awards include the Order of Canada (1996) and the Audain Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Visual Arts (2007). At age 90, he is a passionate champion of arts education who works in his studio every day and continues to push his practice in new directions. Gordon Smith was born in East Brighton, England and lives in West Vancouver, British Columbia.

Kevin Lockau (The Saidye Bronfman Award)
Kevin Lockau has transformed the landscape of Canadian glass art. Over his career, he invented three hot glass casting techniques, producing a unique material from which he creates his fascinating sculptures that combine animal, natural and human forms. In addition to his contributions as an artist, he played an important role in developing the glass studio at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario, where he taught for 20 years. A founding member of “10 North,” a group of Canada’s pre-eminent glass artists, he has received numerous bursaries and awards. His work is represented in a number of public and private collections and has been exhibited in Canada, the United States, France, Finland, Germany and Sweden. Kevin Lockau currently lives in Bancroft, Ontario.

Tony Urquhart & Kim Ondaatje (Outstanding Contribution)
Shortly after the late Jack Chambers created CARFAC (Canadian Artists’ Representation/Le Front des artistes canadiens), he enlisted Tony Urquhart and Kim Ondaatje in the cause of defending the rights of professional artists. For many years, the three crossed the country, meeting with artists and representatives from galleries and museums to establish a fee structure similar to the one used by actors and musicians. Their legal and financial victories marked an ideological turning point by placing the artist at the heart of cultural policy debates. Neither Ondaatje nor Urquhart had any training in cultural affairs administration and were in fact developing their own artistic careers. In the 1960s, Ondaatje gave up teaching literature and returned to the visual arts, painting and exhibiting her work. She then went on to make art films, teach art and publish books of her photographs, while hosting numerous artists and writers. She lives in Bellrock, Ontario. Urquhart gained recognition early in his career as a pioneer of abstract painting. In the 1960s, he distanced himself from the London Group to create his now-famous box sculptures, inspired by religious art and architecture. He was named to the Order of Canada in 1995. He lives in Stratford, Ontario.

Selection of winners
To be nominated for one of the artistic awards, candidates must have created an outstanding body of work and have made a significant contribution to the development of the visual or media arts over a significant period of time. Nominees for the Saidye Bronfman Award must have made a substantial contribution to the development of crafts in Canada over a significant period of time.

This year’s independent peer jury for the Governor General’s Awards consisted of artists and arts professionals Eric Cameron (Calgary), Donigan Cumming (Montreal), Vera Frenkel (Toronto), Thaddeus Holownia (Jolicure, N.B.), Shirley Thomson (Ottawa), Gu Xiong (Vancouver) and Ricardo Castro (Montreal — in the architecture discipline only). Dr. Thomson also served on the jury for the Saidye Bronfman Award, along with Louise Lemieux-Bérubé (Montreal), Charles Lewton-Brain (Calgary) and Peter Powning (Markhamville, N.B.).

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