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Brian Hunter took the RBC contest’s top prize with a 2015 work, in oils on wood, titled Two empty trays mounted vertically.

Winnipeg artist Brian Hunter has won the 18th annual RBC Canadian Painting Competition, prevailing over 14 other finalists. Hunter, 31, was awarded a cheque for $25,000 Tuesday evening at a ceremony in Toronto at the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery.

Named as runners-up were Saskatoon artist Cameron Forbes and former Montrealer Nika Fontaine, now based in Berlin. Each received $15,000, while the remaining 12 finalists took home $2,500 each.

The juried competition, created in 1999 and organized by the Canadian Art Foundation, honours young and emerging Canadian painters. This year's 15 finalists – 10 women, five men – were chosen in early July from almost 570 submissions from across the country.

Hunter, who received a BFA from Montreal's Concordia University in 2007, took the contest's top prize with a 2015 work, in oils on wood, titled Two empty trays mounted vertically. The depicted trays are a pair of empty, antique letterpress boxes. "Once a tool to organize language, they now sit empty, their new-found purpose to exhibit their form," while simultaneously "lending a grid structure to the painting."

Choosing Hunter as the winner came after "passionate and heated deliberation," the nine jurors said in a statement published Tuesday. "Hunter's sophisticated work struck [us] as being both immediate and deeply considered, straddling a bridge between abstraction and representation in a compelling and seemingly effortless way."

Hunter's Two empty trays, 91 by 122 centimetres, along with Fontaine's Schnell Schnell 17 and Forbes's Maritime Plaza Hotel, Window Set 2, now becomes part of the RBC corporate art collection.

Works by all 15 finalists will be displayed at the Power Plant through Sept. 25 and again in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre as part of Art Toronto 2016, Oct. 28-31.

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