Above: Installation view of DENSE, 2022, acrylic, photo-based gel transfer on wall, Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Sandra Brewster. Photo credit: Toni Hafkenscheid ©
The three Canadian artists that made the shortlist for the 2023 Scotiabank Photography Award have very different approaches and subject matter but share a desire to define their world through the lens of art.
This year’s finalists are Sandra Brewster, a Toronto-based photographer/videographer who uses photo-based gel transfers among other techniques to explore her Guyanese roots; Chris Curreri, a photographer and sculptor from Toronto who focuses his work on the notion that things are not defined by their properties but rather by individuals’ relationship to them; and Ken Lum, an internationally recognized artist from Vancouver who has excelled in multiple mediums in his attempts to express his feelings about the world.
The annual award, Canada’s largest and most prestigious peer-nominated prize for lens-based art, celebrates the creative vision and accomplishments of contemporary lens-based artists. The winner, to be announced May 4, will receive $50,000 in cash, a solo Primary Exhibition at the 2024 Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, and a book of their artwork published and distributed worldwide by Steidl of Germany. The finalists each receive $10,000.
A jury of pre-eminent members of the Canadian arts community — Edward Burtynsky, artist and jury chair; Stéphane Aquin, Director, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts; Dr. Kenneth Montague, art collector and curator; and Gaëlle Morel, Exhibition Curator at the Toronto Image Centre — selected the finalists and will decide the winner.
Installation view: Blur 2022, photo-based gel transfer on wall, H: 96in., ARLES 2022, Photo credit: Aurore Valade / Rencontres d’Arles 2022 ©; Headshot: Sandra Brewster.
Sandra Brewster: Toronto-based Brewster combines her skills in drawing, videography and photography to create installations that explore her Guyanese roots and her relationship to what she refers to as home.
“My parents and many of their peers took advantage of the immigration policies in Canada and moved to Toronto in the late 1960s,” Brewster writes in applying for the award. “Memories of Guyana became my own with an insistence for my generation onwards to learn about their past.”
In her work, Blur, which she exhibited last year at the renowned French photography festival Les Rencontres d’Arles, Brewster explored themes of identity, visibility, memory, and Black representation creating movement and blurred images using photo-based gel transfers on to wood and paper.
Brewster, who has a Master of Visual Studies, Studio, from the University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting and Drawing from York University, is represented by Olga Korper Gallery. Her work has recently been exhibited at the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto (2022); Hartnett Gallery, Rochester (2022); Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2018–2022); and Or Gallery, Vancouver (2019).
Installation view: That, There, It at Contemporary Calgary, Canada; Headshot: Chris Curreri, Photo Credit: Kourosh Keshiri
Chris Curreri: Toronto-based Curreri focuses his work on the notion that things are not defined by essential properties, but rather by the relationships we establish with them. Using photography and sculpture, he constructs allegories that attempt to answer the question: To what extent are people willing to open, or close themselves off from this fabric?
“Two kinds of experiences inform my practice, one relates to the porousness of our bodies and the other to the space of artistic production,” Curreri writes in his application. Both are “entangled” in his recent exhibition, A Surrogate, A Proxy, A Stand-In, which was curated by Emelie Chhangur at Agnes Etherington Art Centre, in which he hopes viewers are implicated in states of transparent exposure and self-enclosure.
Curreri has a Master of Fine Arts from the Milton Avery Graduate School for the Arts at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., and a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Photography from Ryerson University. His work is included in the collections of Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, and the National Gallery of Canada. His recent exhibitions include That, There, It at Contemporary Calgary; Thick Skull, Thin Skin at Esker Foundation in Calgary; The Way We Are 2.0 at Weserburg museum für modern Kunst (Bremen, Germany); Sleeping with a Vengeance, Dreaming of a Life at Württembergischer Kunstverein (Stuttgart, Germany); and The Ventriloquist at Daniel Faria Gallery in Toronto.
Installation view: There’s No Place Like Home, 2000; Headshot: Ken Lum
Ken Lum: Having spent years searching for ways to express his “desires and dissatisfactions with the world,” the Vancouver native, who is the Chair of Fine Arts at the University of Pennsylvania’s Weitzman School of Design in Philadelphia, and an internationally recognized artist, photographer, writer, and curator still sees himself as an artist ill at ease.
In his final year of undergraduate studies in general science at Simon Fraser University, Lum discovered the world of contemporary art and realized working in a science lab wasn’t for him. It was his later discovery of a disconnect between the ideals of art and the reality of the system, that he says is responsible for his restlessness.
“This anxious disposition has impelled me to make art, work in public art, write essays on art and the broader culture, and curate exhibitions on historical themes interesting to me,” Lum writes in his application.
His accomplishments include an extensive list of exhibitions, both as artist and curator; co-founding and editing the Yishu Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art, and the publication of his essays under the title Everything is Relevant: Writings on Art and Life 1991 – 2018 in 2020 by Concordia University Press. In 2020, he also wrote The Cook, a screenplay about Chinese contract labourers in the 19th century, which is under development in Hollywood.
Lum holds an honorary doctorate from Simon Fraser University and is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Canada Governor-General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts in 2020. In 2017, he was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada.
Read about the 2022 Scotiabank Photography Award finalists and winner, Jin-me Yoon. You can catch her solo Primary Exhibition at the Toronto Image Centre during the Scotiabank 2023 CONTACT Photography Festival opening May 2023.