An alumni of the University of Guelph’s School of Fine Art and Music has been honoured with the Joe Plaskett postgraduate award in painting, a national accolade awarded to an outstanding, emerging Canadian painter.

Chantal Khoury, who received a master of fine arts in 2021 from the College of Arts, is this year’s recipient of the $65,000 award, bestowed biennially.

This marks the sixth time the honour has been awarded to a U of G artist since 2015.

Joe Plaskett was a Canadian painter (1918-2014) who established the Joe Plaskett Foundation in 2004 to facilitate the selection of artists to receive the award. Plaskett firmly believed that all artists should have the opportunity to see, study and experience the art of Europe that so greatly influenced his own art practice. The award is available to applicants who wish to live, work and learn overseas beyond Europe and the U.K.

A person with shoulder-length dark brown hair sits with their elbows resting on their bent knees wearing a light green top and dark green pants in front of their blue and green painting.
Chantal Khoury

Born to Lebanese settlers in New Brunswick, Khoury creates work that explores cultural loss and presence in a postcolonial condition while questioning the meaning of the mark in abstract painting.

Drawing inspiration from a diversity of scholars and artists from the Global South, Khoury uses traditional painting techniques to address the diaspora through a contemporary methodology leveraging paint’s versatility through the lens of abstraction.

“I am profoundly grateful for this award,” Khoury said. “It will allow me to study pivotal works that have changed the course of my painting practice with uninterrupted time in European collections. I have unwavering support around me, and I don’t take that for granted.”

During her year abroad, Khoury plans to divide her time across London, Paris and Lebanon studying great works and exploring collections of cultural artifacts. Eager to reconnect with her family’s heritage, she plans to visit culturally and historically relevant places in Lebanon and become involved with community and scholarly pursuits pertinent to her work.

“I’m also eager to engage with other Arab diasporas who hold community-oriented workshops,” she said.

In London she will meet with her former MFA external committee member, artist and writer, Mandy Merzaban to continue their exchange from a decolonial perspective.

In choosing this year’s recipient, the jury found, “the depiction of light in Khoury’s paintings visually striking and beautiful, captivated by the fluidity and variety of painting techniques. The careful balancing act between the apparent simplicity of the compositions and the complex hints of representation contained traces of obliterated figures emerging from the works.”

“Chantal’s rich and beautiful paintings are a meditation on history and memory, particularly from her position as part of the Lebanese diaspora,” said Dr. Samantha Brennan, dean, College of Arts. “The fragile and tenuous resurrection of a culture manifests itself in paintings where what is erased is at least as significant as what is left behind.”

Khoury’s work will show in:

  • Toronto at Hunt Gallery (Sept. 8 – Oct. 7)
  • Montreal at Le Livart (Sept. 14 – Oct. 27)
  • Los Angeles at Nicodim Gallery (Sept. 16 – Oct. 28) a
  • New York at a forthcoming show at Nicodim New York (Oct. 19 – Nov. 18)
  • Art Toronto (Oct. 26 – Oct. 29)