2019-2023 Plaskett and Petry Award Recipients

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2023 Plaskett Award Winner – Chantal Khoury

Painter Chantal Khoury in her studio.
Photo credit: Ryan Park.

Born in New Brunswick to Lebanese settlers, Chantal Khoury recently completed her Master of Fine Arts at the University of Guelph. In her work, she explores cultural loss and presence in a postcolonial condition while questioning the meaning of the mark in abstract painting. Drawing inspiration from a diversity of scholars and artists from the Global South, she uses traditional painting techniques to address the diaspora through a contemporary methodology, leveraging paint’s versatility through the lens of abstraction.

The jury found the depiction of light in Khoury’s paintings visually striking and beautiful, and they were captivated by the fluidity and variety of painting techniques. They appreciated the careful balancing act between the apparent simplicity of the compositions and the complex hints of representation, with traces of obliterated figures emerging from the works.

With the award, Khoury will spend one year abroad, equally divided between London, Paris, and Lebanon. During this period of great freedom, she plans to not only study great works and explore collections of cultural artefacts. She is also eager to reconnect with her family’s heritage by visiting culturally and historically relevant places in Lebanon, as well as get involved in community and scholarly pursuits pertinent to her work: “I’m also eager to engage with other Arab diasporas who hold community-oriented workshops […]”. In London, she plans to meet with her former MFA external committee member, artist, and writer, Mandy Merzaban, to continue their exchange from a decolonial perspective.

2022 Plaskett Award Winner – Shoora Majedian

Painter Shoora Majedian in her studio.
Photo credit: Byron Dauncey.

Shoora Majedian lives and works in Vancouver, British Columbia. Originally from Tehran, Iran, she completed her Master of Fine Arts at Emily Carr University of Art + Design in 2021. In her works, Majedian examines personal and social memories influenced by her childhood in Iran and her embodied experiences pre and post-migration. She builds storytelling through painting, and investigates socio-political issues through visual language.

The jury was impressed by Majedian’s ability to capture the zeitgeist in works that feel simultaneously loose, alive, and beautifully painted. Every painting appears to be telling its own story, through the expressiveness and emotion of the human figures rendered therein. The singular colour palette and original compositional strategies make the works all the more intriguing.

The award will allow her to spend six months in Europe, where she plans to divide her time between Germany, London, Paris and Amsterdam. This period of great freedom will allow her to explore new ideas: “Expanding the visual narrative with symbolic elements, different ground sizes, and incorporating photographs as references, are what I would like to push further. Visiting some of the great museums will allow me to explore formal and historical figure depiction boundaries. I am particularly interested in German painters, both contemporary ones and those associated with German Neo-Objectivity and Expressionism, but I am also inspired by the great female painters who refer to mythological strategies and the use of real-life models.”

2022 Petry Award Winner – Michelle Peraza

Painter Michelle Peraza in her studio.
Photo credit: Lisa East.

Michelle Peraza is a Canadian artist of Cuban and Costa Rican descent. She completed her MFA at York University, Ontario. As a second-generation Latin American Canadian painter, she explores LatinX identity through photorealistic larger-than-life portraits of individuals close to her, people who are often unseen in the history of the painted portrait. Her deft use of painterly codes allows her to deconstruct colonial history and contribute to develop a more nuanced LatinX identity.

With the $10,000 Petry Award, Peraza plans to research pre-colonial and colonial Latin American art as well as Spanish Baroque painting in specific museum collections and archives in Spain to address the post-colonial LatinX experience through contemporary painting. She is specifically interested in exploring Mesoamerican codices and Casta Paintings, a genre of painting from eighteenth century Mexico that portrays racial mixing between Spaniards, Indigenous and African peoples. She also intends to research at the National Library of Spain for its extensive collection of Latin American books and manuscripts related to fine arts during the colonial period. Finally, she intends visit The Prado Museum and The Museum of Fine Arts of Valencia, paying particular attention to the work of Diego Velázquez.

The jury found Peraza’s works to be powerful and focused. They work with and against signifiers of beauty and the female form, all while tackling colonial and identity issues. They appreciated the presence and gesture of the body, in contrast with the minimal canvas setup, as well as the use of delicate outlined elements (vase, chair, lace) against more classical painting techniques. 

2021 Plaskett Award Winner – Emmanuel Osahor

Painter Emmanuel Osahor in his studio.
Photo credit: Richelle Forsey.

Emmanuel Osahor’s painting practice explores questions of marginalization and inequity through an investigation of private garden spaces. His work builds on Elaine Scarry’s writing on beauty and an engagement with the beautiful as necessary components in the cultivation of societal care and attention towards issues of injustice. Osahor’s paintings are developed from photographic snapshots of garden spaces, which are then reconfigured through collage and drawing, and a delineation of dynamic fields of colour through multiple washes of thin oil paint, interlaced with gestural drawing and precise moments of representational painting. These strategies coalesce into the creation of lush paintings that transcend representations of garden spaces and make a garden experience palpable.

The jury unanimously appreciated Osahor’s high-quality, attractive paintings. They enjoyed their ambitious scale and the permission for pleasure that emerges from Osahor’s use of collage and drawing to alter the composition, and from his experimentation with materiality through techniques such as scraping. The jury also recognized the political subtext of his subject matter, and expect his involvement with Black diaspora artists in Europe to further enrich his work.

During his time in Europe, Osahor plans to undertake a self-directed residency in London, England, and develop a new body of paintings based on the study of principles of English garden design. He is interested in the legacy of colonization that can manifest through the history of garden design: “I will collect source material through photography and outdoor painting at public gardens and conservatories. Studying English garden history might provide a way to address the similar histories present in my birth country – Nigeria, and my current country of residence – Canada, both Commonwealth countries.” While in Europe, Osahor wishes to participate in artist residencies and to visit museums to engage with English romantic landscape painting and with the works of Black painters practising in the diaspora, who have been an inspiration to his own practice.

2021 Petry Award Winner – Ella Gonzales

Painter Ella Gonzales in her studio.
Photo credit: Richelle Forsey.

As a Filipina-Canadian born in Saudi Arabia, Ella Gonzales thinks about narratives of migration that complicate the Filipino identity and inform the Filipino Diaspora. She works between painting and Sketch-Up, modelling software used for architectural and interior design. Drawing inspiration from the many homes she lived in, Gonzales uses family photos and videos as the basis on which she creates digital drawings. Her paintings then mimic their digital references through the process of embedding oil paint into the canvas or linen. This technique allows for one layer of paint to bleed through and create a mirrored image on the reverse of the canvas. Gonzales is interested in alternative third spaces, oscillating between real and imagined versions of previous homes.

Gonzales plans to spend most of her time in Berlin researching the Bauhaus School of Design at the Bauhaus-Archive / Museum für Gestaltung, to learn more about Bauhaus design principles. She also wants to visit the Tate Modern to see their collection of works by Giorgio Morandi and Giorgio de Chirico and other modern and contemporary painters. She’d also like to visit Spain, where many Filipino painters were trained, including Manuel Ocampo, who has several pieces in the MACBA collection. There are also many interesting architectural projects archived in the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya.

The jury appreciated Ella Gonzales’s subtle and accomplished painted works, her skilful use of colour, and her ability to draw influences from the history of painting and make them her own. They felt her smart way of dealing with space has potential to grow and that she will find new ways to challenge formality by learning about and experiencing Bauhaus design principles.

2020 Plaskett Award Winner – Azadeh Elmizadeh

Painter Azadeh Elmizadeh in her studio.
Photo credit: Greg McCarthy.

Azadeh Elmizadeh holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Visual Communication and Graphic Design from the University of Tehran (2010) and a BFA from OCAD University (2016). In August 2020, she earned her Master’s of Fine Arts in Studio Art at the University of Guelph. Working between painting and collage, Elmizadeh draws on references from Persian miniature painting; her painting process relies on the slow layering of translucent glazes of oil paint to create a feeling of anticipation and temporal movement, a collage or assemblage of discontinuous intervals of here and there, now and then represented simultaneously.

From the onset, the jury was captivated by Elmizadeh’s masterful approach to constructing a painting that evokes luminosity through simplicity. In her works, they found a great balance between a sense of history, with a nod to color field paintings, and a desire to bring something fresh and new, thanks to an incredibly complex color palette that evaporates in fire and light, as well as hints of figures emerging from the painting surface. With her captivating work, strong artist statement and clear plan for her time in Europe, Elmizadeh gathered unanimous, enthusiastic support from all three jury members.

Elmizadeh plans to expand her understanding of the role of intercultural encounters in the shaping of the 20th-century Modernist abstraction, by studying alternative histories of Islamic art in cultural institutions such as the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and the Islamic art museum in Germany, and by investigating masterpieces of oil painting in European museums. To her, painting is a space that bridges the gap between seemingly distant knowledges and cultures and an opportunity to engage in cross-cultural dialogues in a growingly diverse cultural landscape.

2020 Petry Award Winner – James Gardner

Painter James Gardner in his studio.
Photo credit: Daniel Esteban.

James Gardner holds a Bachelor’s Degree (2008) from the University of Guelph (Major in Studio Art & Minor in Art History) and recently completed a Master’s Degree in Painting and Drawing at Concordia University. Through his research on image agency, Gardner has been investigating the “Art of Memory” (A.O.M.) and its usage within the traditions of alchemy, magic and astrology. Using A.O.M. as the conceptual scaffold for his paintings, Gardner is exploring how images can be (re)activated and altered to produce new forms of knowledge and experience.

James Gardner’s strong knowledge of painting norms and conventions, along with his willingness to explore them with playful, complex constructions, caught the attention of the jury. They appreciated his inventiveness, combining the use of new technologies, interesting cage-like sculptural components, and references to ancestral painting traditions. In addition, the jury found Gardner’s plan to use the award well-researched, considerate and thoughtful; they expect that his time in Europe will definitely contribute to enriching his ongoing research.

Given that Art of Memory is of Greek origin, Gardner plans to begin his stay in Europe in Athens, to work closely with paintings made within that tradition. He plans to reach out to Athens’ Byzantine and Christian Museum to secure high-resolution images of monastic art for his own archive and to use as transfers in his paintings. He also plans to stay in Italy and in Ireland to continue his study of paintings made within the tradition of the Art of Memory and further develop his ideas about the intersection between “Western esotericism” and image making.

2019 Plaskett Award Winner – Caroline Mousseau

Painter Caroline Mousseau in her studio. Photo credit: Richelle Forsey.
Painter Caroline Mousseau in her studio.
Photo credit: Richelle Forsey.

Caroline Mousseau holds a BFA from Emily Carr University of Art + Design, and is currently completing her MFA at the University of Guelph. She is investigating how the formal practice of craft can inform a methodological and philosophical framework for a feminist approach to abstract painting. Her work aims to highlight how the process of slow consideration is a fruitful ground for abstraction in an immediate world.

The jury found Mousseau’s work enticing both from a formal and a conceptual point of view. They appreciated the clever deconstruction of the abstract expressionist brushstroke through slow, deliberate gestures. In addition to the brilliant technique seen in her works, her strong artist statement confirmed a solid conceptual understanding, allowing her to confidently deal with important issues in painting, and to question the tropes of abstraction.

Mousseau plans to base her work in Berlin in order to focus her attention on contemporary dialogues that are being generated by its high concentration of painters, curators, and writers. She intends to visit institutions that highlight the history of formalist abstraction like the Kröller-Müller, Stedelijk and Groninger museums in the Netherlands; the National Gallery in Norway; and the Glyptotek and Statens museums in Copenhagen. In parallel, she will research the contemporary relevance of craft in art, as well as the history of craft and design as it crosses folk art, Modernism, De Stijl, and the Bauhaus. She envisions her time in Europe as a crucial opportunity to focus solely on painting, and to physically examine Europe’s rich shifts in gesture, materiality and formalist abstraction from the 19th–20th centuries into current context.

2019 Petry Award Winner – Lauren Pelc-McArthur

Painter Lauren Pelc-McArthur in her studio. Photo credit: Richard-Max Tremblay.
Painter Lauren Pelc-McArthur in her studio.
Photo credit: Richard-Max Tremblay.

Lauren Pelc-McArthur holds a BFA from OCAD University, and is currently in the third year of her MFA at Concordia University. In her work, she aims to express the potentialities of digital culture as well as addressing its seduction, shallowness, and inherent conflicts of meaning. Using paint with matte and glossy films, iridescent pigments, and pastel-hued impasto application, Pelc-McArthur destabilises the act of screen-biased painting through scattering optical effects, which are difficult to see unless one is physically with the work. In her paintings, she creates spaces that she populates with cyclical imagery, primordial life forms and flora, suggestions of technological apparatuses, and transforming humans.

The jury was impressed by Pelc-McArthur’s varied and complex paintings, which combine multiple innovative painting techniques to create visually mutable surfaces that evoke the instability of the digital. The quality of her application was further confirmed with a well-written artist statement, a clear plan for her time abroad, and an enthusiastic reference letter from Janet Werner.

Pelc-McArthur intends to apply to the Leipzig International Artist Residency. She also plans to visit the Moscow Museum of Modern Art and discover their significant collection of Russian Avant-Garde painting. She also wishes to visit CERN, to witness and research through the eyes of an artist what is at the vanguard of science. As she is fascinated with the sculptures of Medardo Rosso, and how he explored fluidity and surface, she hopes to visit the museum dedicated to his work in Italy.