2014-2018 Plaskett and Petry Award Recipients

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2018 Plaskett Award Winner – Karine Fréchette

Photo: Justin Wonnacott
Photo: Justin Wonnacott

Karine Fréchette holds a BFA from Université du Québec à Montréal, and she completed her MFA in 2017 at Concordia University. Informed by Op art, early 20th century abstraction and the psychedelic aesthetic, her paintings investigate light as a constantly circulating flow of information, while at the same time drawing ideas from constructed spaces and the currents that flow through them. Roving between real and virtual spaces, her works depict frequency wave-like patterns that generate a physical and optical experience in the viewer. Fréchette is currently based in Montréal.

The jury was unanimously fascinated by Fréchette’s strong, visually stimulating compositional skills and by her deft use of colour. Her works exhibit a clear understanding of the legacy of abstraction in Quebec, while adding a contemporary light by drawing inspiration from real and virtual spaces, and by creating patterns that evoke video feedback or computer screens. Done with an arresting degree of finesse and precision, her large paintings confirm her technical process and her ability to overcome technical challenges, which she combines with clear intellectual rigor to create dynamic, deep works.

Karine Fréchette wishes to take part in a dynamic and cosmopolitan artist residency program in Europe. From there, given the influence that light, place and architecture have on her works and on her painterly gestures, she plans to pursue an in-depth research on how light and architecture interact and evolve throughout history in Europe. She is also interested in documenting the singular luminosity of specific places she would experience during her time there.

2018 Petry Award Winner – Adam Alexander Gunn

Photo: Justin Wonnacott
Photo: Justin Wonnacott

Adam Alexander Gunn holds a BFA from NSCAD University, and he completed his MFA in 2017 at Concordia University. Painting on organic-shaped supports that allude to the imperfections of our perceptual apparatus, Gunn begins with a series of loose brushstrokes that evolve, through an exploratory process, into various objects. Often depicting vegetal, animal, rock and debris in a state of flux, Gunn combines traditional and contemporary painting techniques into a subversion of the traditional still-life genre. Gunn is currently based in Montréal.

The jury was impressed by Gunn’s ability to harmoniously combine traditional painting techniques, rendering approaches inspired by the digital world, and loose brushstrokes into coherent works. In his written statement, Gunn suggests there is no disorder, only different levels of complexity of order: an idea that helps understand his work, and further appreciate the transition from painterly gesture to rendered object. In addition, the jury found refreshing his reference to still life and his use of chiaroscuro, combined with contemporary painting techniques and shaped canvases.

Adam Alexander Gunn intends to base himself in Berlin, from where he would travel to other art centers to gain wider access to historical and contemporary paintings. For example, he plans to visit Madrid to spend time studying works such as Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights. Because Gunn works with Art Mûr Gallery in Montreal, he also envisions an opportunity to collaborate with their Berlin space during his time in Europe, to potentially show work there and to further take part in the international art community.

2017 Plaskett Award Winner – Jason Stovall

Jason Stovall accepts award at 2017 RCA event
at Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, May 6, 2017

Jason Stovall completed his MFA in 2016 at Western University in London, Ontario and is currently based in Victoria, British Columbia. Stovall writes that his graphic figurative paintings are about “the hesitation to admit a physical and emotional need for others,” and are informed by his experiences growing up queer in Alberta. Born in 1989 in Edmonton, Alberta, but raised in the oil sands area, the mixed suburban and industrial setting of Fort McMurray is the starting point for “the juxtaposing of issues such as power and tension with themes of identity and masculinity” in Stovall’s work. His upbringing, heavily influenced by the conservative and religious values of Alberta, and by the transient workforce constantly coming and going from the oil sands, combines to form the basis of his subject matter.

The jury was unanimously enthusiastic about Jason Stovall’s paintings and wrote: “Their formal strength was immediately apparent, arresting the jury’s attention through their idiosyncratic compositions and Jason’s sophisticated and surprising use of colour. His evocative narrative content was palpable in the paintings themselves, and subsequently confirmed by his articulate written statement. Jason Stovall seamlessly weaves content and form together into intriguing paintings that are vulnerable, affective, human, touching, and emotional.”

Jason had a strong letter of support from Sky Glabush Associate Professor in Visual Arts at Western. He plans to visit important museums and immerse himself in various European cultures that he believes are more disposed to figurative painting than those he’s encountered in North America. He is specifically eager to see in person the work of Bacon, Hockney, Matisse, and Picasso. Jason gave a gracious speech at the award ceremony held at the RCA annual gathering the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto in May 2017, and has the full confidence of the Joseph Plaskett Foundation as he goes forward.

2017 Petry Award Winner – Gillian King

Gillian King
Gillian King

Gillian King completed her MFA in 2016 at the University of Ottawa. Originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba she is currently based in Ottawa. Her work is firmly grounded in extensive research that connects “ancient art practices with our changing geographical landscapes” and the concept of the Anthropocene has led her to explore relationships between humans and animals. Gillian makes abstract paintings that emphasize material process, using cold wax medium, oil paint and powdered pigment to explore her visual methods. The jury was impressed by Gillian King’s formally inventive paintings that show “ambition and exuberance in her sense of scale and materiality. The physical traces of material in her paintings embody the very qualities of the cave paintings she is referencing. Her strongly affective works present a unique approach to both landscape painting and lyrical abstraction.”

Gillian plans to visit the Lascaux caves in France as well as geologic volcanic Eifel sites in Germany between Bon and Trier. Themes in her work will be furthered by seeing “some of the first European Western cave paintings that depict nonhuman animal and human animal interactions” and advance her understanding and exploration of Paleolithic art histories and contemporary methods of painting. The jury was grateful for a strong support letter for Gillian from Andrew Wright, Director of the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Ottawa.

Along with receiving the 2017 Nancy Petry Award, Gillian King is the recipient of the RBC Emerging Artist Award for Ottawa (2017) and was selected as the Ontario representative for the Robert McLaughlin Gallery’s 50th Anniversary Exhibition, ‘Ab NEXT’ (2017) in Oshawa that features five emerging abstract painters from across Canada. Recent shows include “Becoming Animal” (solo 2016), Ottawa Art Gallery; La Maison des Artistes in Winnipeg, University of Marinette Wisconsin, PDA Projects, Ottawa and Karsh-Masson Gallery, Ottawa. Gillian also completed residencies at The Banff Centre for the Arts and Sparkbox Studios in Canada.

2016 Plaskett Award Winner – Ambera Wellmann

Ambera Wellmann

Ambera Wellmann was born in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia and attended the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design starting in 2007 where she focused primarily on painting, drawing and printmaking. In 2010 she studied at Cooper Union School of Art in New York City. She graduates with her Master of Fine Arts Degree from the University of Guelph in 2016.

As well as winning the Joseph Plaskett Award, Wellmann is the recipient of Project grants from the Province of Nova Scotia, a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Creation Grant from the Government of Canada, and two Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation Awards. Wellmann has been an artist in residence at the Arteles Centre in Finland (2013). She has exhibited work across Canada and the United States and has several exhibitions forthcoming.

The Plaskett Award expert panel was based in Vancouver. David MacWilliam, Gary Pearson and Allyson Clay (with translation support from Caroline Mousseau) enthusiastically wrote:

“The jury was struck by the difficult beauty of the subject of Ambera Wellmann’s paintings and admired her virtuosic painting abilities and her confidence in engaging the grotesque and the uncanny. Her choice to represent porcelain objects as surrogates for the human body and her low-chroma, lush chiaroscuro painting of these objects is compelling. The committee further recognizes how this award will afford her the ability to see other historical objects, art, and artifacts in Europe that will resonate intimately with her subject matter.”

Wellmann travelled to Vancouver in May 2016 where she received the Award at a ceremony at the Equinox Gallery in front of the art community. This was followed by a second announcement and celebration at the 136th RCA gala dinner at the Western Front. She expects to focus her next year in research and studio production in Paris and Berlin and the Joseph Plaskett Foundation is thrilled to grant her this opportunity.

2016 Petry Award Winner M. E. Sparks

M. E. Sparks
M. E. Sparks

The Nancy Petry Foundation is pleased to announce that M.E. Sparks is the Nancy Petry Award recipient for 2016. On the foundations behalf, Joseph-Richard Veilleux, President of the Royal Academy of Arts (RCA), presented the award in Vancouver in May 2106. Her speech and thanks to Nancy Petry is available in the “Testimonials” page.

The jury/expert panel said they admired Sparks for her “transformations of the historical still-life genre into a subject for ambitious contemporary painting and recognized the depth and integrity of her research which, while clearly indebted to modern art history has brought a new multiplicity of approaches and outcomes to painting and abstraction. Through shifts in scale and the flattening of pictorial space, her depictions of slabs and objects take on a new architectural monumentality.”

M.E. Sparks holds a BFA from NSCAD University in Halifax and a Master of Applied Arts from Emily Carr University of Art + Design (2016). She has received numerous awards including the Gordon and Marion Smith Painting Scholarship, BC Arts Council Scholarship, the Juror’s Choice Award at Saltspring National Art Prize (2015) and the Arts Nova Scotia and Nova Scotia Talent Trust Award.

Her paintings have been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions across Canada including See Level at the Charles H. Scott Gallery, Vancouver, Still Here, (solo) at artist-run Point Gallery on Salt Spring Island and in 2016 Fresh Paint/New Construction at Art Mûr in Montreal. Sparks was Artist in Residence at the New Glasgow Studio Residency in Nova Scotia (2013-14). In 2017 she will be an artist at the Arteles Creative Residency in Hämeenkyrö, Finland, and Institut für Alles Mögliche in Berlin, Germany.

2015 Plaskett Award Winner – Stanzie Tooth

We are thrilled to announce that Stanzie Tooth is this year’s recipient of the 2015 Joseph Plaskett Award. This $25,000 prize is the legacy of the generous, Canadian-born artist and philanthropist, Joseph Plaskett (1918 – 2014). The award was established in 2004 to support a mature Canadian MFA student to travel and make art in Europe for one year. Congratulations Stanzie!

When the formation of the Plaskett Foundation was announced in 2004, Mr. Plaskett said, “I created this award in emulation of what Emily Carr did for me in 1946. I would like young Canadian artists to enjoy the privileges I experienced more than a half century ago. Europe and, above all, France, have left me richer in knowledge and experience. Although things have changed a great deal since I first travelled and studied abroad, the lesson of Europe and it’s past is always waiting for those ready to learn.”

The 2015 jury was based in Ottawa and included Jonathan Shaughnessey, Curator, National Gallery of Canada; Governor General Award winner Carol Wanio, and former Plaskett recipient and painter Jennifer Lefort (chair). The award is administered in partnership between the Joseph Plaskett Foundation and the Royal Academy of Arts (RCA) and this year included the inaugural runner up prize of $10,000 named the Nancy Petry Award, which was given to Rachel Crummey. The awards were presented to Stanzie and Rachel at the RCA’s 135th Annual General Assembly held at the Musee d’art contemporain in Montreal on May 16.

Stanzie Tooth is an MFA candidate at the University of Ottawa. In 2007 she received her BFA from the Ontario College of Art & Design with an award for excellence in painting. Her work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions across Canada including “60 Painters” at Humber College, an ambitious overview of contemporary Canadian painting. Stanzie is represented by General Hardware Contemporary, Toronto.

Stanzie’s MFA thesis exhibition, titled Hand to Ground, will take place at the City of Ottawa’s Karsh Masson Gallery, beginning August 1st, 2015. The Department of Visual Arts at the University of Ottawa is proud of its ongoing partnerships with local and regional Arts presenters and institutions. MFA thesis exhibitions are held annually in August, in professional venues across the Ottawa-Gatineau region.

2015 Petry Award Inaugural Winner – Rachel Crummey

Rachel Crummey
Rachel Crummey

The Joseph Plaskett Foundation and RCA congratulate Rachel Crummey – the very first Nancy Petry Award recipient! The senior artist Nancy Petry was on hand at the Musee d’art contemporain for the Plaskett/Petry Award Reception to congratulate Rachel herself.

This Inaugural prize was selected by the 2015 Plaskett/Petry Jury based this year in Ottawa. The chair of jury, Jennifer Lefort spoke on behalf of her colleagues, Jonathan Shaughnessy, a curator at the National Gallery of Canada and Carol Wainio, painter and Governor General Award in Visual Arts recipient as she told the crowd how Rachel’s work and docier had appealed to the jury for its rigour and freshness.

Rachel gave a speech in front of the 100 guests, and thanked the jury and Ms. Petry and her gallery for their support. She is pleased to be able to plan a trip to work in Europe for this coming year.

Bio: Rachel Crummey is a visual artist based in Toronto. She has been an artist in residence in Vienna, Austria as part of their Kulturkontakt program, at the Salzburger Kunstverein in Salzburg, Austria (both 2015), and at the Vermont Studio Centre (2011). She has participated in solo and group exhibitions in Canada and Europe. Recent venues include Millington Marriott (London U.K), the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre (Guelph), and the Olga Korper gallery (Toronto). Her work is in corporate and private collections, including TD Canada Trust. She received her MFA from Guelph University in 2014.

2014 Plaskett Award Winner – Collin Johanson

Collin Johanson
Collin Johanson

The Joseph Plaskett Foundation wishes to congratulate Collin Johanson!

Johanson was awarded the eleventh $25,000 Joseph Plaskett Award during a special presentation to celebrate ten years of the Plaskett Award. The presentation, exhibition and reception was held at the beautiful new Equinox Gallery in Vancouver on Friday, May 9, 2014. The Vancouver art community was invited.

This year’s jury of respected artists was held in Winnipeg and included Mark Neufeld (Chair), Associate Professor at the University of Manitoba and recipient of the Inaugural Joseph Plaskett Award; Paul Butler, Curator of Contemporary Art at the Winnipeg Art Gallery and Eleanor Bond, Associate Professor at Concordia University and renowned Winnipeg based artist.

The jury unanimously recommended Montreal based Collin Johanson who according to the jury “presented a strong body of expressive abstract paintings. While rooted in European Modernism, his paintings investigate approaches to abstraction while personal elements acknowledge contemporary preoccupations with the subject.”

Paul Butler complimented Johanson’s commitment to his practice and noted:

“there is a joy that comes through painting, which comes from tireless experimentation and pushes the boundaries of painting”.

Collin Johanson graduated from Emily Carr University in 2004 with a B.F.A. and from Concordia University in 2013 with a M.F.A. His work has already begun to receive attention. Notably he was a semi-finalist for the RBC Painting Competition (2008) and included in several group shows since 2005. He has presented solo exhibitions at Access and LES Gallery in Vancouver. Most recently he presented his work in the group show, A Process of Recognition, at Battat Contemporary in Montreal. Johanson intends to base himself in Berlin while also taking time to visit the museums in Paris.

His award was also announced as is the tradition within the partnership with the RCA during the President’s Dinner of the 135th Annual General Assembly of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts (RCA) which was held at the Art Gallery of Edmonton to large applause on May 17, 2014.