York grad student wins coveted Artist Prize

York graduate student, filmmaker and artist Elle Flanders recently won the coveted Artist Prize from the Toronto Friends of the Visual Arts (TFVA), an independent non-profit organization.

Flanders (BA Spec. Hons. ’88), a PhD student in visual arts in the Faculty of Graduate Studies, received the award along with collaborator Tamira Sawatzky, an architect and artist, for their collective art practice Public Studio they co-founded in 2007. Flanders’ work has been screened and exhibited internationally, including at the Museum of FlandersTamiraModern Art, the Berlin International Film Festival, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art and the Incheon Biennial.

From left, Elle Flanders and Tamira Sawatzky, winners of the Toronto Friends of the Visual Arts Artist Prize for their collective art practice Public Studio, toasting the occasion

Flanders’ most recent work includes the following: Road Shots, a series of large-format laser-cut photographs exhibited at O’Born Contemporary in Toronto; Road Movie, a six-screen installation on the segregated roads of Palestine that premiered at TIFF (2011) and the Berlinale (2012); Kino Pravda 3G, a series of video installations addressing current public dissent and protests across the globe; What Isn’t There, a 15-year ongoing photo installation project that documents Palestinian villages that no longer exist; and the award-winning feature documentary Zero Degrees of Separation.

Her work with Sawatzky focuses on landscapes as an area of cultural struggles. “My work can be complicated and messy,” says Flanders.

Public Studio’s next project will be centred a little closer to home, dealing with the environment and trees in Canada, KatherineKnight2but approached from an architectural and art perspective. Spruce, pine and fur, says Flanders about the direction of the project – not coincidentally, the materials the foundation of Canada was built upon.

Katherine Knight

In addition, York visual arts Professor Katherine Knight of the Faculty of Fine Arts and York film alumna Marcia Connolly (MFA ’10) were awarded a project support grant for from TFVA for their latest documentary Spring & Arnaud, billed as a breathtakingly tender portrait of artists Spring Hurlbut and the late Arnaud Maggs. It is at once a love story and a peek into the lives of two acclaimed Canadian artists, but it also delves deeper into how they deal with Maggs’ illness.

The 65-minute film, co-directed by Knight and Connolly and produced by the directors with Site Media Inc., had its world premiere at Hot Docs in April, where it was voted a top 10 audience favourite. Spring & Arnaud‘s production team included several York film department graduates, including editor Jared Raab, SpringandArnaud2post supervisor Chris Wiseman, colourist Conor Fisher and motion designer Mathieu Martel, all from the class of 2007.

A screen shot of Spring Hurlbut and the late Arnaud Maggs from the documentary film Spring & Arnaud

Through her production company Site Media Inc., Knight creates documentary films about leading Canadian artists, including Annie Pootoogook and Colette Urban, as well as the celebrated Inuit art community of Cape Dorset, Nunavut. Her most recent work includes a feature documentary on Wanda Koop, KOOP: The Art of Wanda Koop, which follows the renowned Canadian artist as she prepares massive new works depicting archetypal cities and familiar, yet disquieting, landscapes for two 30-year retrospectives – one at the Winnipeg Art Gallery and another at the National Art Gallery in Ottawa. (See YFile story Feb. 22, 2011.)

As a recipient of the Canada Council for the Arts’ Duke and Duchess of York Prize in Photography, Knight has exhibited her photo media works extensively across North America. Ongoing online projects include the oral history collection Memory Factory: Caribou Harbour and Cariboo Mottos, a cultural history documentary project focusing on a collection of Victorian-era needlepoints.

Connolly, Knight and Site Media Inc. are currently completing a new documentary on the architecture of Todd Saunders in Fogo Island, Nfld.

To watch a video of Knight and Connolly discussing their documentary, click here.