Christienne Cuevas of Kitchener, Ontario has been announced the winner of The Kingston Prize 2017
Presented by the Haynes Connell Foundation
“As an artist, I have two impulses that struggle to find their expression—an exacting impulse that demands precision and is strengthened through classical training, and an expressive impulse that longs to break free from the confines of rigid perfectionism. When I find the right balance, a work is finished.”
– C. Cuevas
“Portrait of the Artist by Christienne Cuevas is a masterful take on the use of classic mediums, including carbon, graphite, and ink to create a self-portrait for the twenty-first century. The work combines excellence in techniques of both drawing and painting as well as minimalism and high realism to create a mesmerizing stare that captivates the viewer who is drawn into a profound consideration of the artist’s identity and her commentary on self representation. Understated yet powerfully haunting, Portrait of the Artist acknowledges the best of history’s genre of self portraiture while looking to the future.”
– Sara Angel, Juror
In this self-portrait, Cuevas asks the viewer to pause and take stock of the artist’s materials and subject. She crafts a portrait that appears to be a simple black and white exercise. On close inspection though, the work is analogous to a vertical triptych in three media: graphite is used on the lower half of the image for the rendering of the shirt; carbon is used in the middle of the image for the face and neck; and finally ink is used for the hair above. In this harmoniously composed work, Cuevas sensitively renders an engaging image, asking the viewer to come close, meet me as a person, know me as an artist.
The work is realist yet abstract, detailed yet expressive. Consider, for example, the fine hairs at the base of her jawbone and ear which lightly dust over her shirt collar—these abstract lines that are the brush marks of the ink are convincingly descriptive of those fine strands of hair which will not be contained by her hair pin. Her use of the white space of the paper is at once figure and ground, showing her capacity to push portraiture forward imaginatively through her working process. While building on the academic traditions of portraiture, resisting moving to the ubiquitous world of the digital, she grounds her work in the craftsmanship of both drawing and painting while leaving open for interpretation the subtleties of her as person.
– Catharine Mastin, juror
Sometimes what appear to be the simplest of materials, in the right hands, can have the most moving effect. In their own way drawing and painting have a unique ability to transfix and communicate with the viewer in worlds beyond conceptual thinking.
In looking at Christienne’s drawing and through her talent and skills she is able to draw us into that world.
Through her inquiring gaze we can see reflected back our own uncertainty and feelings about a world we all share. The drawing has an honesty and poetic truth one sees in the best of portraits.
– Glenn Priestley, juror
Joey O’Neil is a folk singer who grew up in Toronto, but now resides in the Yukon…I am always struck with the dichotomy of her existence, such a wild range of experiences has made her a wonderfully wise and well rounded soul.
– Shaun Downey, Toronto, ON
My painting is of Canadian Sculptor Shayne Dark who is a close friend and colleague. Shayne was going through chemotherapy when he posed for me and was generous enough to open himself up emotionally. I tried to convey his fragility and strength through this painting. Shayne is now in full remission I am so pleased to say.
– Daniel Hughes, Kingston, ON