In Canada, to be nominated for a Sobey Art Award is the pinnacle of recognition in the national arts community for visual artists.
The award, created in 2002 by the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, rewards the work of contemporary Canadian artists who are 40 years of age and under. The winning artists this year, Daniel Young and Christian Giroux (representing Ontario) received $50,000, and all the finalists received $5,000 each.
This year’s finalist for the Quebec region was none other than Montreal resident and Concordia photography professor Manon De Pauw.
“I feel very lucky that I was nominated because I’m aware that there are so many good artists across Canada,” said De Pauw. “And just being able to be in contact with the gallery staff, curators, technicians, of the gallery of Nova Scotia was a really, really good experience, and I think any one of the five nominated artists on the shortlist could have won.”
The award splits Canada into five regions, and a chosen curator for each region must submit five names to the jury in Halifax for the long list. The jury then chooses one finalist from each region for the shortlist. This year, the chosen curator for Quebec was GaÃ«tane Verna, the executive director and chief curator of the MusÃ©e d’art de Joliette, who included De Pauw in the list.
A Concordia graduate from the studio arts program, De Pauw does not limit herself to just one medium, and her creations include video, photography and performance.
“It’s really an interdisciplinary process, so there’s not really one medium I use the most,” she said. “I think with my hands, so I guess my hands [are] the medium I use the most.”
It is with that same hands-on spirit that she describes what she considers the most rewarding moments of her career so far.
“My favourite moment is just working in the studio and collaborating with other artists, and just doing my job. I like going to galas and vernissages, but really what I enjoy the most is just doing my work,” she shared. “And what’s the most rewarding is actually when you’re in the studio and something works out, and you know that it’s going to be good art. And you’ve done your research and you’re experimenting, and suddenly things happen and you get the result you want.”
With using different mediums also comes differing experiences in terms of exhibiting. De Pauw explained that there is a contrast between her performances and regular museum exhibits.
“Doing performance is more on the edge, because when you do an exhibition, you control all of the elementsâ€”the lighting, where you put everything in the space. Unless something goes wrong with some form of equipment, it’s there,” she said. “If I’m happy with the result I’m not nervous, but when I do perform there’s always a part of improvisation, so anything can happen, in a sense. I’m nervous but it’s also very exhilarating, because there is a really unique contact with the public, and this idea that something happens only once.”
Next up for De Pauw is some well-deserved time off, where she will work on various projects and take care of her newborn child.
Among these projects is an exhibition at the Canadian Cultural Centre in Paris, which will run next year, showing works from a show she held at GalÃ©rie d’UQAM in 2009.
For now, De Pauw is happy to have been nominated for the Sobey Art Award, and the opportunities it brings, such as meeting the other finalists.
“There was a really nice camaraderie feeling when I met the artists,” she said. “For me, that’s very precious. The human part of our professional function as artists is really important.”