Ursula Johnson, a Halifax-based multidisciplinary artist whose work considers the legacy of colonization, has won the 2017 Sobey Art Award. The $50,000 prize, Canada's most prestigious honour for young contemporary artists, was awarded Wednesday night at the University of Toronto.
Johnson, 37, was born in Sydney, N.S., and is an artist of Mi'kmaq First Nation ancestry. Her creative output includes sculpture, music, printmaking and performance art.
"This means that I will now have the tremendous opportunity to work on a larger scale and expand the reach of my work to a broader community, while exploring more diversity in materials and content as well as beginning to create a network of collaborators internationally," Johnson said in a statement.
Johnson prevailed over four other finalists from across the country to capture this year's Sobey award. Started in 2001 by the Nova Scotia-based Sobey Art Foundation, the honour goes to a Canadian artist under the age of 40 who has participated in a public or commercial gallery within 18 months of being nominated.
Each of the remaining finalists – Raymond Boisjoly, Jacynthe Carrier, Divya Mehra and Bridget Moser – receive $10,000, with all having their work exhibited at the Art Museum of the University of Toronto through Dec. 9.
The prize's selection committee, chaired by Josee Drouin-Brisebois, senior curator of contemporary art at the National Gallery of Canada, highlighted Johnson's "strong voice, her generosity and collaborative spirit."
"Through her work, she redefines traditional materials and re-imagines colonized histories," the committee said in a statement.