March 15, 2010
A Distinguished Collection
Each year, the Canada Council for the Arts, in collaboration with the Governor General of Canada, honours eight Canadians for their distinguished career achievements related to visual and media arts.
The 2010 Governor General's Awards in Visual and Media Arts have been awarded to the following people:
Robert Davidson (sculptor)
André Forcier (filmmaker)
Rita Letendre (painter)
Terry Ryan (Outstanding Contribution Award)
Tom Sherman (video artist)
Gabor Szilasi (photographer)
Ione Thorkelsson (glass sculptor - Saidye Bronfman Award)
Claude Tousignant (painter, sculptor)
The Art Bank takes much pride in showcasing some of the works in its collection by these talented artists:
Robert Davidson, RCA
Innocent Bystander (2000)
A key figure in the renaissance of Haida art, Robert Davidson is renowned for his totems, masks, paintings, prints and jewellery. He began carving at 13, taught by his father and uncle. In 1966-1967 he worked for a short time in Bill Reid’s studio, and then studied at the Vancouver School of Art. He carved and raised the first totem in 90 years on Haida Gwaii in 1969. The subject of several major exhibitions and monographs, his work is represented in such collections as the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the National Gallery of Canada. He is a recipient of a National Aboriginal Achievement Award (1995) and a member of the Order of Canada (1996). Mr. Davidson lives in White Rock, British Columbia.
Rita Letendre, RCA
Omm II (1972)
One of only a handful of women painters to achieve significant profile in the post-war period, Rita Letendre was associated with the Automatistes in Quebec who transformed painting practice in Canada. In the early sixties she worked in Europe and Israel, winning a gold medal at Italy’s Piccola Europa exhibition. Her work took her to Los Angeles and New York, where she established herself as an outstanding muralist. Sunforce, a mural done in 1965 for California State College at Long Beach, was at that time the largest outdoor mural in the United States; Sunrise, a 60’ x 60’ mural, was produced for Ryerson Polytechnic Institute in Toronto in 1971. Ms. Letendre continued to work on canvas and paper exploring light effects in bursts of colour by using paintbrush, airbrush, and then combining the two mediums throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Since then, she has pursued her explorations through oil on a variety of scales. Ms. Letendre is a recipient of the Order of Quebec (2002) and an Officer of the Order of Canada (2005). She lives in Toronto.
Drawing from SR-43 (1987)
Work on paper
Soon after completing his B.F.A. at the University of Eastern Michigan, Tom Sherman moved to Canada (1972) and went on to become one of this country’s leading figures in video art. He co-founded the artist run A Space Video (1973) and Fuse Magazine (1978). He worked at the Canada Council for the Arts in the early 1980s and founded its Media Arts section (1983). He represented Canada at the Venice Biennale (1980), and has been the subject of several major exhibitions, including retrospectives at the National Gallery of Canada (1983) and the International Festival of Films on Art in Montreal (2005). In 2003, he received the Bell Award for excellence in video art. He is currently a professor in video art at Syracuse University and when he’s not teaching, he lives near Liverpool, Nova Scotia.
Gabor Szilasi, RCA
Madame Albert Guay, Lotbinière, Québec (1976)
In 1957, Gabor Szilasi fled the communist regime in Hungary and immigrated to Canada with his father. From 1959 to 1971 he was employed as a photographer by the Office du film du Québec, while continuing with his own photographic explorations. His first major project on the communities of Charlevoix and the Isle-aux-Coudres, produced in the 1970s, already gave evidence of his respect and documentary-like curiosity for his subjects. His subsequent explorations of Quebec communities confirmed his unique ability to interpret and capture a manner of living. Mr. Szilasi has influenced several generations of photographers. He is a major figure in photography in Canada who has exhibited throughout the world, won the 2009 Prix Paul-Émile Borduas, and taught first at the Cégep du Vieux Montréal, then at Concordia University. A virtual reference system on architecture, passing eras, rural life and urban landscapes, Mr. Szilasi’s photographs constitute an eloquent and deeply humanistic body of work. He lives in Westmount, Quebec.
Ione Thorkelsson, RCA
Ione Thorkelsson (Saidye Bronfman Award)
Ione Thorkelsson began her career studying architecture at the University of Manitoba then changed direction to pursue a fascination with glass. In 1973, she learned the blown glass technique, built her own studio and began creating vases, perfume bottles and other vessels. Largely self-taught, her only formal training in glass was a course she took in 1979 at Sheridan College. In 1983, she began exploring the cast glass technique, drawing on the natural world (birds, insects, bones) for subjects. Her works have been exhibited across Canada, the United States, Europe and in Hong Kong, and can be found in the collections of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the Canadian Museum of Civilization and Rideau Hall. Ms. Thorkelsson lives in Roseisle, Manitoba.
Claude Tousignant, RCA
Oblique Oblongue (1964)
Claude Tousignant painted for the first time at the age of 12, copying the pictures from a calendar of Saint Joseph’s Oratory. This would be one of the rare moments of figurative painting in the career of this leading figure in the world of abstract art. For 60 years he has pursued his research on the non-figurative with exemplary discipline and consistency. Famous for his instantly recognizable, vibrant circles, especially the series Accélérateurs and Gongs, then Dyptiques, the painter and sculptor has explored the qualities of colour, form, space and movement like nobody else. He has had numerous retrospectives, most recently at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. Acclaimed the world over and the recipient of many awards (including the Victor Martin Lynch-Staunton Award and the Prix Paul-Émile Borduas), Mr. Tousignant has produced a body of work whose wealth, diversity and resonance is universally acknowledged. He lives in Montreal.