Three visionaries, one finalist
For winners of the annual Scotiabank Photography Award, Canada’s largest and most prestigious annual peer-nominated and peer-reviewed contemporary photography award, the international attention can be more valuable than the monetary prize of $50,000. This year’s three shortlisted finalists hail from Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, though their creative imaginations are unconstrained by geography. Each of the three finalists has produced a body of work that appeals to global audiences—accessible and captivating, though never obvious or easy.
Torontonians have a chance to see the finalists’ work at a unique screening until May 3. Their works are projected onto the side of a Scotiabank branch at the corner of Queen and McCaul, along with a telephone number that people can text to see a video and learn more about the artists.
This year’s winner will also be announced May 3, during the 20th anniversary of the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, and will be featured in a solo primary exhibition at next year’s festival.
Whether he’s produced photography, video or installations, Pascal Grandmaison’s art is difficult to look away from: light flashes on a field of red, like synapses firing in the mind; oily black surfaces; people holding sheets of glass as if trapped behind them. Everything so sharp and meticulous, but mysterious. His subjects—nature, architecture, machines, people—seem to matter less than the process of being bewitched by them. Starting out as an artist in the 1990s, Grandmaison’s international reputation grew after a seminal 2006 solo show in Montreal, the city he was born in, studied in and still lives and works in. His ambitions and the scale of his projects have also grown, as he creates photos and lightboxes that sweep across galleries and public spaces. “I think the size of the images is very important to how the messages are delivered,” he says. “While some images are created to make one think, others are made to evoke feeling.”
Forty-eight years into an art practice that’s included photography, video and performance, Suzy Lake’s body of work feels as fresh as art that’s being made this week. Coming of age during the civil rights movement in late 1960s Detroit, Lake’s photographs have always been politically charged. But she is too good an artist—and too much a chameleon—to produce anything that seems dated. “I do work very hard to develop a metaphor that is open beyond the specific. Issues of identity, struggles against resistance—it feels the same, even though the provocation of today is different from the provocation of 1975,” says Lake, who’s lived in Toronto since 1978. Her classical art training didn’t include photography; when she first started taking pictures, it was to document her performances. But she found that photography helped her bring what was happening in the streets into the studio. “Photography really helped me define where I wanted to go, and make artwork that reflects what our culture is,” she says.
As a teenager in Kelowna, B.C., photographer and video artist Jayce Salloum would collect bottles and other found objects, and arrange them on shelves. “I didn’t know it at the time but I was creating these shelf installations,” says Salloum, who now lives in Vancouver’s downtown Eastside after stints in San Francisco, New York and Beirut. Taking photos is also a form of collection, gathering images of people and places to make them visible. Visiting areas of conflict, capturing the stories of people caught between worlds, Salloum’s expansive career and serious political engagement might as easily be traced on a globe as arranged in a chronology. Images of a waterfall, rusted-out tanks in Afghanistan, portraits of children, all chronicle the struggles of our times, but are definitely not the images we see on the news. “Trying to make a good picture has been a thread throughout. It’s a constant challenge. The more that images are made in the world, spewed out second by second, it becomes harder and harder,” says Salloum. As he’s matured as an artist, he’s become less focused on producing work to be widely seen, and more on making art that’s engaging to him. “Now I realize I don’t have all the time in the world, I want to be much more cautious with my time.”
The Scotiabank Photography Award winner announcement will be livestreamed on @Scotiabank’s Facebook Page on May 3 at 7:00pm. Join the conversation using #ScotiaPhotoAward or visit scotiabank.com/photoaward. This is sponsored content. For more information on the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, starting on April 27, please visit scotiabankcontactphoto.com.