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5 fine-arts grads share prestigious MNBAQ Contemporary Art Award

The alumnae will headline a group exhibition later this year
June 29, 2023
By Lindsay Lafreniere, GrDip 10

A man wearing a mask holds a camera as he takes photo of hanging paper birds with an apartment building in background "Passing" by Maria Ezcurra | Photo: Thierry du Bois

For the first time, five artists have won the prestigious Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (MNBAQ) Contemporary Art Award. And all five are Concordia alumnae.

Established in 2013 with support from the RBC Foundation, the annual award recognizes Quebec-based artists who have exhibited work without formal representation. In addition to a cash prize of $10,000, the recipients will have the opportunity to participate in a group showcase from late October to January 2024.

A second jury will select a final winner during the exhibition and a “monograph devoted to the winner’s work will be published in 2024 and the MNBAQ will acquire the artist’s works for its collection." 

Learn more about the five Faculty of Fine Arts graduates and their work below.

Portrait of a woman with dark hair, wearing a white T-shirt Photo: Nooshin Bahr

Anahita Norouzi, MFA 13

A sculpture of a severed Persian warrior’s head — smuggled from Iran and stolen from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts — has landed in some unexpected places, including on an IKEA shelf in an Edmonton apartment.

This story has inspired what multidisciplinary artist Anahita Norouzi will present at the MNBAQ exhibit this fall.

“I’m interested in sound, image, land, violence and history as elements of an active archive, and time travel as a historical method,” she says. “My work serves as a means to ask questions that are most often inconvenient or unwanted.”

Norouzi describes herself as an artist who makes situations, objects and encounters. She came from Iran to study at Concordia.

​​”Commuting between Iran and Canada is central to my practice, which lies at the intersection of colonial histories, experiences of immigration and displacement, and the issue of identity and memory,” she says. “I explore these concepts in relation to my dichotomous condition as an immigrant navigating between two locations, two cultures and two identities.”

Norouzi is also a finalist for the 2023 Sobey Art Award, one of Canada’s most generous prizes in contemporary art recognizing emerging Canadian artists.

Portrait of a smiling woman with dark hair pulled back, wearing a gray top Photo: Freddy Arciniegas

Maria Ezcurra, PhD 16

Textiles are a central part of Maria Ezcurra’s creative practice. Clothing redefines the body’s physical and emotional boundaries and represents the complex social relations that shape our identities, she says.

“They are a rich sculptural material and performative resource,” Ezcurra adds. “They have innumerable formal advantages and symbolic possibilities that connect individual experiences with cultural values.”

At the MNBAQ award exhibition, Ezcurra will present an installation mostly composed of suitcases and pantyhose. It’s part of a larger project called LIMINAL - Stretching the margins, which explores the notions of borders in relation to physical and social spaces, including the land, home and body.

“I have been individually and collaboratively exploring ideas of migration and my own experience as a double immigrant woman, born in Argentina and raised in Mexico,” says Ezcurra.

The 2016 doctoral recipient researches and creatively responds to the transboundary dimensions of human and natural migration from an ecofeminist perspective. Concordia, Ezcurra notes, has been a great influence on her professional practice and inspired her to collaborate with others in meaningful ways. She teaches at McGill University and also serves as a part-time instructor at Concordia’s Department of Art Education.

Portrait of a woman with long, dark hair, wearing brown velvet top and black pants, pictured with a vase of flowers Photo: Sara Tremblay

Sara A.Tremblay, BFA 08, MFA 14

Visual artist Sara A.Tremblay’s move to the countryside not only inspired her but was decisive to her career. The double Concordia graduate currently describes her studio as a flower garden, a vegetable patch, a field of wild herbs, a barn and a century-old house.

Dried or fresh flowers, plants, tomatoes and squash are frequent subjects. Tremblay also works with self-portraiture, her animals and a collection of artifacts.

Her still photography and moving images convey experiences and places visited over time as well as snippets of daily life. Harvesting, too, has become an important focus with thousands of flowers planted on her land.

As part of a creative residency, Tremblay walked and chronicled 650 km of the Appalachian Trail and presented her results at international photography meetings. After an 88-day stay on the Swedish island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea, she published a book of photographs called Själsö.

Black and white portrait of a woman with dark hair tied in a loose bun, wearing a dark sweater with swirls of colour

Celia Perrin Sidarous, BFA 08, MFA 15

Celia Perrin Sidarous is a photographer, filmmaker and a collector of things. Her studio is a library of gathered and found objects and fragments — rocks, seashells, books, fabric, vessels, and images.

Perrin Sidarous’s work explores the relationships between intimacy and familiarity, still life and the moving image, as well as narratives that question ideas of memory and looking.

At Concordia, she completed an MFA in studio arts with a concentration in photography. Perrin Sidarous produces series of images and photographic assemblages that refer to the history of still life while blurring the boundaries of how objects are usually represented.

Her film Slip (2018), shot on location in Greece, Cyprus and Montreal, was presented on Shift Key, the Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto’s online platform, in 2020.  In the film, Perrin Sidarous examined questions such as: “How do we remember places and histories that we didn’t witness?” “What are the shapes of memory?” “How do objects create meaning and how do they inhabit a shared consciousness?”

Portrait of a woman with black curly hair wearing a pastel colour-blocked top and light-coloured jeans

Eve Tagny, BFA 11

When Eve Tagny started exploring themes of loss and grief in her multidisciplinary work, she instantly thought of using soil as a material. Attending the burial of someone close to her in South Africa imprinted the idea on her mind, she told Bomb Magazine.

“Friends or family of the deceased dig up soil and create these visually striking piles above ground that they decorate with fake or real flowers, ribbons, and so on, and mark with a name and number,” she said.

Back in Canada, she became interested in little piles of soil she’d see in different contexts like construction sites and gardens. Weeds would reclaim the soil, making a home out of the dug-up earth

Recently, Tagny was part of Thick as Mud, a group exhibition at the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle, Washington, of international artists employing soil and dirt in their practices. She wanted to position soil as a natural archive of the people who have worked and lived on it throughout history.

Tagny’s practice is often installation-based, though she graduated in film production and has a preference for photography. Her art explores colonialism, corporeal sovereignty, labour and desire.

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