Two U of G Students Win Joseph Plaskett Foundation Painting Awards

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Plaskett award winner Emmanuel Osahor sits in front of a large canvas of his work

Painter Emmanuel Osahor in his studio (Photo credit: Richelle Forsey)

Two students in the University of Guelph’s School of Fine Art and Music (SOFAM) have been chosen as 2021 recipients of two major awards.

Emmanuel Osahor has won the $30,000 Joseph Plaskett Postgraduate Award in Painting and Ella Gonzales has won the $10,000 second-prize Nancy Petry Award. Both are enrolled in U of G’s master of fine art in studio art program.

The dual awards are presented to exceptional emerging Canadian artists in the field of painting who are enrolled in graduate programs.

The Joseph Plaskett Postgraduate Award will allow Osahor to spend six months in Europe when public health guidelines permit international travel.

Originally from Lagos, Nigeria, Osahor plans to undertake a self-directed residency in London, England, to paint works based on the study of English garden design. He is interested in the legacy of colonization manifested through the history of garden design.

“I will collect source material through photography and outdoor painting at public gardens and conservatories,” he said. “Studying English garden history might provide a way to address the similar histories present in my birth country, Nigeria, and my current country of residence, Canada — both Commonwealth countries.”

Osahor plans to participate in artist residencies and visit museums to engage with English romantic landscape painting and with the works of Black painters practising in the diaspora who have inspired his own practice.

The Joe Plaskett Foundation jury said it “unanimously appreciated Osahor’s high-quality, attractive paintings.” They enjoyed “their ambitious scale and the permission for pleasure that emerges from Osahor’s use of collage and drawing to alter the composition, and from his experimentation with materiality through techniques such as scraping.”

The jury also recognized “the political subtext of his subject matter and expect his involvement with Black diaspora artists in Europe to further enrich his work.”


Painter Ella Gonzales sits on a wooden chair in her studio with several canvases behind her

Painter Ella Gonzales in her studio. (Photo credit: Richelle Forsey)

Gonzales, a Filipina Canadian, was selected as the Nancy Petry Award recipient.

Her paintings and installations are inspired by narratives of migration that inform the Filipino diaspora. She references the many homes she has lived in, using family photos and videos to create digital drawings with Sketch-Up modelling software.

The $10,000 award will allow her to travel for two months to Berlin, where she plans to study Bauhaus School of Design principles.

The jury appreciated Gonzales’s subtle and accomplished painted works, her skillful use of colour and her ability to draw influences from the history of painting and make them her own.

Canadian artist Joseph Plaskett created the Joe Plaskett Foundation in 2004 to enable young Canadian painters to live, travel and create artwork in Europe. In 2015, the Nancy Petry Foundation partnered with the Joe Plaskett Foundation to administer a second prize given to the first runner-up.