Presentation of the Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts
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Rideau Hall, Wednesday, March 23, 2011
For centuries, the visual artists of this land have been inspiring us with images of ourselves, our beliefs and the times in which we live.
Think of the ancient Dorset carvers of the Far North, who made objects of incredible power and beauty that still move us today.
Or think back to the first half of 20th century, when members of the Group of Seven and artists such as Emily Carr used the power of paint to define Canada as a distinct place, worthy of its own art and expression.
And today, led by you, our most innovative and talented contemporary artists, we are exploring new frontiers of creativity, awareness and understanding as Canadians and as global citizens. You are taking us there through your work in photography, performance art, painting, experimental film, metalsmithing and art criticism.
My predecessor, Vincent Massey—whom many of you know as a driving force behind the birth of the Canada Council for the Arts—understood the importance of art as a form of knowledge. He referred to artists as “interpreters,” and spoke of the power of art to quicken our perceptions, to broaden our mental horizons, to stimulate our imaginations and to make us better citizens.
I, too, believe that art is a means to deeper understanding, and that all knowledge is interrelated.
The visual and media arts often lead us to make surprising discoveries. And I know that sometimes, you are more surprised than anyone to see what you’ve created. That is what drives you and what makes your work so exhilarating.
Through intuition and years of practice, you have created new forms and images that speak to our condition in the 21st century. Your work reminds us that many boundaries no longer apply.
You fuse film with poetry, photography with cinema, and graphic design with fine art.
You have rediscovered and renewed the mysteries of painting and of the fine craft of metalworking.
And you have brought art, artists and the public together in new ways, building archives, networks and installations, and sharing your insights with us.
Visual artist Carl Beam, a winner of this award in 2005, also crossed boundaries in his work, joining Aboriginal and Western traditions to create a new hybrid. He was ahead of his time in deepening our sense of the links between humankind, the natural world and the environment.
“Let us remember that we are all related,” he once said, stating his belief in the power of small, individual actions to ripple through our local and global communities.
For years, your work has likewise brought to light new possibilities and connections. I know that many of you also work as teachers and mentors, and I want to commend you for helping our future artists and visionaries.
In 2017, Canada will mark its 150th anniversary, and since my installation as governor general, I have been inviting Canadians to join me in imagining our country as it could be. And who better to help us imagine than our artists? I would like to take this opportunity to invite you to share your ideas as we approach this exciting moment in our history.
I am also delighted to present to each of our laureates a new medallion that has been commissioned to celebrate distinguished career achievement in visual and media arts. Designed by the Canadian Heraldic Authority at the Chancellery of Honours, and produced by the Royal Canadian Mint, this bronze medallion is inscribed with the motto Excellentiae in artibus causa—“Recognizing excellence in the arts”.
It is my hope that each of you will keep this medallion as a reminder of our gratitude for your contributions to Canada and to the world.
On behalf of all Canadians, my wife, Sharon, and I are honoured to present these awards to you, our most visionary artists and interpreters.