N.B. artist Mathieu Léger a finalist for distinguished Sobey Art Award

Mathieu Léger, seen here in a self-portrait, is a finalist for the Sobey Art Award. (Mathieu Léger - image credit)
Mathieu Léger, seen here in a self-portrait, is a finalist for the Sobey Art Award. (Mathieu Léger - image credit)

A New Brunswick artist has been shortlisted for a prestigious contemporary Canadian art award.

Mathieu Léger of Moncton was named the finalist for the Atlantic region.

"I was already surprised to be on the longlist," he said after the announcement. "I didn't expect to make the shortlist, so it's an honour, and it's a huge surprise."

The work of the six finalists from across Canada will be displayed at the National Gallery of Canada from Oct. 4, 2024, to March 16, 2025, with the winner to be announced on Nov. 9.

Photos show Léger during a performance, part of a series of performances called 'In Regard to Rendering.'
Photos show Léger during a performance, part of a series of performances called 'In Regard to Rendering.'

Léger seen during of a series of performances called, In Regard to Rendering. (Annie France Noel/Submitted by Mathieu Léger)

Along with the $100,000 grand prize for the chosen winner, $25,000 is given to each of the shortlisted finalists and $10,000 to each of the remaining 20 longlisted artists — four of whom live and work in New Brunswick.

The other finalists are Taqralik Partridge in Ottawa, Judy Chartrand in Vancouver, Rhayne Vermette in Winnipeg, June Clark in Toronto and Montreal-based Nico Williams ᐅᑌᒥᐣ.

According to the National Gallery of Canada, Léger was a previous recipient of the Strathbutler Award and the New Brunswick Lieutenant-Governor's Award for High Achievement in Visual Arts.

This project, which includes drawings and a sound installation, influenced by the first principles of military drumming, the images are made by the strokes of the sticks directly on paper.
This project, which includes drawings and a sound installation, influenced by the first principles of military drumming, the images are made by the strokes of the sticks directly on paper.

This project, which includes drawings and a sound installation, is influenced by the first principles of military drumming. The images are made by the strokes of the drumsticks directly on paper. (Mathieu Léger)

Léger said his career started when he was a kid in the late 80s playing music.

As a multimedia artist, his work includes performance, drawing, photography, printmaking, video and sound.

Since 2000, he has travelled the world taking part artist residencies, which he said give him room for exploration and a chance to try new things.

"I think residencies are a really excellent way to focus for a period of time just on your research, just on your creation," he said.

"So I think it's kind of like getting away from your normal day to day life and focusing entirely on what you want to do."

Pictured is Léger's work, titled Obstacles & Amendments, shows examples of wear and tear created in the process of making another art piece. It is based on the idea that artistic activity can be passive and still be productive.
Pictured is Léger's work, titled Obstacles & Amendments, shows examples of wear and tear created in the process of making another art piece. It is based on the idea that artistic activity can be passive and still be productive.

This piece, titled Obstacles & Amendments, shows examples of wear and tear created in the process of making a piece of art. It is based on the idea that artistic activity can be passive and still be productive. (Mathieu Léger)

Since then, he has done almost 100 of these residencies, including one that spurred an idea that pokes fun at the art awards industry.

It started during a residency in 2012 at the New Brunswick Museum.

"We had been discussing this idea of awards and the art world," he said. "And I was joking that, you know, how can somebody be called the best artist?"

So, he started making small engraved plates that said "Not a Sobey Award Finalist" for each time he was nominated for the Sobey Art Award but not made a finalist.

"I guess I'll have to make a new plate this year."

This image shows one of the performances done during a residency in collaboration with Eastern Edge Gallery in St. John’s, N.L. Léger says that during the residency, he explored notions of wilderness, plausibility and disbelief.
This image shows one of the performances done during a residency in collaboration with Eastern Edge Gallery in St. John’s, N.L. Léger says that during the residency, he explored notions of wilderness, plausibility and disbelief.

This image shows one of the performances done during a residency in collaboration with Eastern Edge Gallery in St. John’s. Léger says that during the residency, he explored notions of wilderness, plausibility and disbelief. (Mathieu Léger)

Léger said he was surprised to see four artists in New Brunswick recognized on the longlist, but not in the sense that their talent isn't deserving.

He said there is a great community of artists in the province and everyone helps each other out, but it isn't an easy profession by any means.

"You toil away in your studio for months or years on end and then somebody sees an exhibition, and then you disappear again for a while," he said.

"And recognition, yes, it's certainly hard, and in New Brunswick, yeah, perhaps more than other areas. But you know what? You put your head down and you make the art you want to see in the world."