2021 Plaskett and Petry Award Recipients

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.