The 2017 Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts have been announced!

This year, Canada’s foremost distinction for excellence in visual and media arts, has been awarded to visual artists Shelley Niro, Landon Mackenzie, Shelagh Keeley, and Glenn Lewis, as well as jewellery artist Pamela Ritchie, filmmakers Mike Hoolboom, Michelle Cournoyer, and writer-curator Philip Monk.

Each year, the awards honour up to seven artists for their artistic achievements, and one individual for their outstanding contribution to contemporary visual and/or media arts. The Art Bank congratulates all the 2017 winners. We’re proud to have several of their works in our collection.

Shelley Niro
Shelley Niro is a multi-disciplinary artist who works in photography, painting, beadwork and film. Her work focuses on themes of identity, and challenges stereotypes and colonial representations of Indigenous peoples, with a focus on Indigenous women. With directness and humour, she crafts new narratives based on the past, pop culture, and her own lived experience. These new narratives force us to reflect on history making, representation and memory, while her work champions self-actualization and liberation.

Shelley Niro, Ghost (2004)

Ghost, 2004

This piece is part of a series called GHOSTS, GIRLS, GRANDMAS, produced for the National Museum of the American Indian. According to the artist, “Ghost” refers to ancestors and the energy we receive from them when we contemplate time spent on earth and our own time. Here, Niro juxtaposes contemporary photography with wampum beads, which carry their own historical significance.

Landon Mackenzie
Landon Mackenzie is recognized for her large, bold, energetic abstract paintings. Her work challenges visual representation through layers of paint, packed with meaning and references to the historical, geographical and geopolitical, from the Canadian landscape to the landscape of her own nervous system. Her research practice and curiosity come through her work, as she walks a line between abstraction and representation. Mackenzie has also been a professor at Emily Carr University of Art and Design for close to 30 years.

She cruises ... (hockey rink, Regina)
Landon Mackenzie, She cruises (hockey rink, Regina) (1993)

She cruises … (hockey rink, Regina)
, 1993

She cruises… is part of Mackenzie’s Regina 5 Series, named in honour and jest of the 1950s group of male artists, “the Regina Five.” Her design was based on a man-made lake that employed 2000 men during the Great Depression. Mackenzie has never lived in Regina but has frequently visited and researched there. In this piece she layers historical, geographical and fictional sources, abstractly on canvas.

Shelagh Keeley
Shelagh Keeley is known for her large-scale, site-specific wall drawings and installations, which often involve photography and collage. She creates a dialogue through her physicality in response to the architecture of a space, with a process that is consistently visceral and tactile. Her mark making, however sporadic, is based on a strategy that she prepares for herself over several months. This practice results in conceptual artworks that are a combination of consideration and spontaneity, while the practice itself is liken to performance.

Sounds of the Night Garden # 4Shelagh Keeley, Sounds of the Night Garden #4 (1982)

Sounds of the Night Garden # 4
, 1982

According to the artist, this drawing, using black oil stick on paper, is one of a series on the same theme. Keeley states that it is evocative of the stick drawings of a child, and resonates with memories of childhood nightmares of scary creatures. We have three pieces from this series in the Art Bank collection.

Glenn Lewis
Glenn Lewis is a multi-disciplinary and experimental artist who works in performance, film, ceramics and sculpture, photography, and writing. From parades and correspondence art, to synchronized swimming with shark fin caps, Glenn Lewis has produced works that embrace both the antic and the everyday. His works often blur the boundaries between media, and between viewer and artist. A founder of artist-run centre Western Front, Lewis assumed a crucial role in Vancouver’s experimental arts scene in the 1970s.

Survival Paradise I, Salfar Jang
Glenn Lewis, Survival Paradise I, Salfar Jang (1976-79)

Survival Paradise I, Salfar Jang
, 1976-79
Lewis has been fascinated with gardens for decades, as the stuff of dreams and ancient mythology. For his Survival Paradise series, the artist traveled to Europe, the Middle East, and India, exploring the great gardens of the East and West, and documenting the ‘relics of paradise.’ This silkscreen and colour Xerox work on paper, is one of nine from the series.

For more on these award-winning artists, spectacular video portraits, and upcoming activities and exhibition, check out

View more artworks in the collection by these artists.


About the AJulieMartin_Student2016_bloguthor: Julie Martin
Julie Martin is a student and emerging professional in the cultural sector. She holds a B.A. in Honours History from Cape Breton University and is currently enrolled in Applied Museum Studies at Algonquin College. Active in arts, culture and heritage on Cape Breton Island, she moved to Ottawa in 2015 to pursue her studies. Julie worked at the Canada Council for the Arts as a summer intern in 2016, and is currently completing a field placement at the Canada Council and Art Bank.

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