Winnipeg artist wins national painting competition
It takes a community to raise an artist.
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Like most artists, Winnipegger Brian Hunter admits it’s hard to “make it.”
But now the winner of a major national painting prize, he credits his home city with helping him catapult his artistic career.
“It is tricky, for the last 10 years I’ve been trying… struggling… to make a living as an artist,” said Hunter, who was born in Winnipeg, studied in Montreal, and returned to the ‘Peg in 2013.
Since his homecoming, he said he has benefited professionally from the “vibrant art scene,” helpful peers, and affordability of the city.
“I’m quite involved with the art community here, and I’ve really enjoyed being back in Winnipeg,” Hunter said after his recent RBC Canadian Painting Competition (CPC) win. “Everyone’s really open… it’s so easy here to call someone up and have them come over for a studio visit.”
He explained there are “many well known artists” based in the Exchange and around the city, fantastic galleries and exhibitions, and that beyond the networking within the local art scene, the biggest advantage Winnipeg has offered him has been “affordable studio space.”
“That’s the most important thing for me at this stage in my career, is having a space I can afford and the time to be in there,” he said, explaining how cheaper leases compared to bigger cities mean fewer side-job-hours, which means more studio time. “There are people who consider Winnipeg as a place to go where you have a chance to work on your practice, meet some artists, and not be too pressured to earn a living to pay rent—(making it) is a lot more doable here.”
He said that space for professional development is part of the reason his trajectory landed him among 15 finalists for the CPC, and eventually the $25,000 purchase prize for his painting, entitled “Two empty trays mounted vertically.”
In a statement, the CPC jury said his work struck them as “deeply considered, straddling a bridge between abstraction and representation in a compelling and seemingly effortless way.”
Hunter hopes the CPC win will further catapult him to new career heights, and in turn, that more people will recognize Winnipeg as the artist hot bed he knows it to be.
“This (prize) puts my name out there, and it’s an award a lot of people know and respect,” he said. “More and more people will see Winnipeg as a place for artists to move with places like Vancouver and Toronto becoming so expensive.”