“I’m kind of hoping in a way that this prize … shows people that there’s really interesting and complicated work that’s being made by Yukoners — speaking to the Yukon community, but also even more broadly, more nationally.” Tisiga told CBC News in November, shortly before the winner was revealed.
Tisiga is a multidisciplinary artist from the Kaska Dena Nation who lives and works in Whitehorse. His practice is concerned with Indigeneity, colonialism, art and social histories. “My work is informed more by the ephemeral qualities of living in the Yukon” he says in his artist statement, rather than drawing from the geographic landscapes around him.
Tisiga’s work has been exhibited across Canada and the United States, and the artist has been the recipient of numerous art prizes, including the REVEAL Indigenous Art Award from the Hnatyshyn Foundation in 2017. He has been twice recognized by the Sobey Art Award, making the longlist in 2011 and becoming one of the winners in 2020, when the prize was split equally among the 25 finalists.
Much of Tisiga’s work focuses on painting and drawing, although his practice also includes performance, photography, sculpture and installation. For the gallery exhibition, he included an installation of astroturf panel canvases on which the artist spelled out words—poetic fragments like “never before never again,” activist slogans like “LAND BACK” and Enya lyrics — with cigarette butts, alongside an enormous oilstick and canvas piece entitled Dreamcatcher (2020) that measures 16 feet by 16 feet.
The Prize was co-founded by Julie Jai and David Trick in partnership with the Yukon Arts Centre, the Yukon Art Foundation, and a network of volunteers including an eleven-member committee composed of artists and arts administrators from across the Yukon. To be eligible, artists must have been living in the Yukon for more than two years (although Yukon First Nations artists not living in the province but who maintain a significant provincial connection are still eligible), and producing original artworks in any medium which they submit as part of a portfolio of works to the Prize’s jury. 107 artists applied this year.
The 2021 jury was composed of Gaëtane Verna, Director of The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery in Toronto, ON; Ryan Doherty, Chief Curator of Contemporary Calgary in Alberta and Candice Hopkins, an internationally known independent curator and a citizen of Carcross/Tagish First Nation.
“As someone born in the Yukon, it was impressive to see the breadth of practices in the territory, ranging from fashion to photography, drawing, painting, sculpture, beadwork, graphic novels, carving, and everything in between,” Hopkins told What’s Up Yukon in October 2021. “It was incredibly difficult to choose the six finalists from so many worthy applications and I am grateful to all who took the time to share their work with the jury.”
“It is impressive to see the breadth of practices in the territory, ranging from fashion to photography, drawing, painting, sculpture, beadwork, graphic novels, carving, and everything in between.”Candice Hopkins, Independent curator and citizen of Carcross/Tagish First Nation