Jeremy Shaw, a North Vancouver-born artist based in Berlin, has won the 2016 Sobey Art Award, a $50,000 prize generally regarded as the outstanding honour for young or younger contemporary artists in Canada. Mr. Shaw, 39, prevailed over four other finalists from across the country to take the juried award at a ceremony on Tuesday evening at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa.
Inaugurated by the Nova Scotia-based Sobey Art Foundation in 2001, the prize was originally awarded every two years, then became an annual event in 2006. It goes to a Canadian artist under 40 who has exhibited in a public or commercial gallery within 18 months of being nominated.
This year's five finalists – three men and two women representing five regions of Canada – were selected in June from a long-list of 25 announced in April. Mr. Shaw, the nominee for Sobey's West Coast/Yukon region, was on the Sobey long-list in 2015.
A 2000 graduate of Vancouver's Emily Carr Institute of Art + Design, Mr. Shaw works primarily in video, film and photography, with forays into performance and music to explore what one observer calls "altered states and the cultural and scientific practices that aspire to map transcendental experience." He has participated in group exhibitions in Europe, Canada and the United States, and since 2003 has had nearly 20 solo shows in cities as varied as Zurich, Los Angeles, Berlin and Toronto.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the seven-member jury, headed by Josée Drouin-Brisebois, the National Gallery's senior contemporary art curator, said the Shaw oeuvre "speaks to a fundamental longing for transcendence. He creates and reflects extraordinary experiences and shows us how art can translate what is challenging to articulate."
Mr. Shaw's four fellow finalists – Charles Stankievech (Ontario), Hajra Waheed (Quebec), William Robinson (Atlantic), Brenda Draney (Prairies/Northern Canada) – each received $10,000 as runners-up. Works by all five finalists are on display at the National Gallery through Feb. 5, 2017.
This year is the first time the Sobey has been administered by the NGC. In an effort to boost the prize's profile nationally and internationally, the gallery and the Sobey foundation struck an accord late last year, with the foundation taking on principal responsibility for funding. Exemplifying the prize's increased ambition this year was the inclusion for the first time of an "international juror," Nicolaus Schafhausen, director of Kunsthalle Vienna.
The prize has served as both barometer and bellwether of Canadian art-making since its inception. Among its laureates have been Annie Pootoogook (2006), David Altmejd (2009), Abbas Akhavan (2015), Nadia Myre (2014) and Duane Linklater (2013).