The Audain Prize honored two veteran West Coast artists on Friday, bestowing the $30,000 award on Gathie Falk and Takao Tanabe. The award, sponsored by Vancouver art collector and philanthropist Michael Audain (who recently made history with a $5 million donation to Emily Carr University, and is building a self-named museum in Whistler), is given very year to an artist from British Columbia in recognition of their lifetime achievement. The prize, which is in its tenth year, has previously gone to artists such as Jeff Wall, Rodney Graham, E.J. Hughes, and Marian Penner Bancroft.
Tanabe was born in Seal Cove, BC and was interned with his family during the Second World War. After graduating from Winnipeg School of Art in 1949, he furthered his studies in New York and traveled in Europe on an Emily Carr scholarship. He moved to Vancouver Island in 1980. Now 86, he continues to paint at the studio he built on his remote coastal property.
“I’m slowing down and the paintings are getting darker, I think — darker sky, darker sunsets, more dramatic,” the artist told CBC. Tanabe said he’s not thinking of retiring — he’s too busy, with three exhibitions last year and another coming up in April of next year.
Manitoba-born Falk worked as an elementary school teacher in British Columbia while she studied fine art before becoming a full-time artist in 1965. Now 83, and a past recipient of the Governor General’s Award for Visual Arts and the Order of Canada, Falk is known for her ceramic sculptures such as “Eight Red Shoes,” part of the National Gallery of Canada collection, and “196 Apples,” at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Her sculptures of papier maché often feature banal and domestic objects in unlikely contexts. She has recently moved into “something I’ve never done before,” moving into large-scale abstract painting.
“I’ve always been a lover of American abstract art. It is to me the biggest thrill,” she said. “I’m an expressionist and I’ve been drawn to that… all my work was expressionistic — that is painting in very bright colors — but that didn’t go over at all in the 1960s.”
She abandoned the abstract style in 1965, but now says she is preparing both abstract and realist paintings for her next show.
Another recipient of a western Canadian art prize was announced Friday evening: abstract painter Elizabeth McIntosh received the VIVA Award from the Jack and Doris Shadbolt Foundation for her demonstration of “exceptional creative ability and commitment.”
Falk, Tanabe, and McIntosh will be honored on April 4 in a ceremony to be held at the Vancouver Art Gallery.
— Sky Goodden
(Photo: The artist Gathie Falk in her studio, Vancouver, 1983.)