VISUAL ARTS AWARDS 2007 RECIPIENT
Award for Outstanding Achievement as an Artist
One of Canada's leading international artists, Ken Lum was born in Vancouver in 1956. He received a Bachelor of Science degree at Simon Fraser University in 1980 and a Master of Fine Arts degree in 1985 from the University of British Columbia where he later became a professor of Fine Arts. He has also been a visiting professor at L'École nationale superieure des beaux-arts in Paris, the Akademie der Bildende Kunst in Munich and the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou, China. He is currently a Professor in the Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College in New York State.
While Lum has employed sculpture and painting in his practice, it is his photo-text works that have gained the artist international attention in recent years. Using the portrait as his working model, Lum comments on various elements of contemporary life and art by juxtaposing text, whether it be a person's name or a fragment of a thought or dialogue, with photographs of people in ordinary (but staged) situations and environments.
Lum's gregarious and engaging work has been exhibited internationally since 1978. He has participated in many prestigious international art exhibitions including, Documenta XI in Kassel, Germany (2002), the Shanghai Biennale (2000), the Sydney Biennale (1992), Carnegie International in Pittsburgh (1991), the Sáo Paulo Biennial (1998), the Venice Biennale (1995, 2001), the Johannesburg Biennale (1997) and the 10th Istanbul Biennial (2007). A major solo exhibition of his work was organized in 1990 by the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam, the Vancouver Art Gallery and the Winnipeg Art Gallery, and a retrospective of his work entitled "Ken Lum: Works with Photography" was organized and circulated by the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography in 2002. In the summer of 2007 he had his first solo exhibition in China, at Tang Contemporary Art Gallery in Beijing. He has also created public art for the cities of Vancouver, Vienna (Austria), Strasbourg (France) and Siena (Italy), as well as the region of La Plaiv in Switzerland.
In recommending Lum for the Hnatyshyn Foundation Visual Arts Award, the jury highlighted the multifaceted nature of his artistic practice: "From installations which present arrangements of furniture and décor that thwart physical access, to photographic portraits embellished with advertising graphics, Ken Lum's work uses examples of familiar commercial design in situations which challenge the limits of good taste. Recognizing that the formation of one's identity is informed by social and commercial influences, Lum blurs the boundaries between traditional and popular aesthetics in the interest of revealing the basis of our contemporary ethos. In addition to his studio work, Ken Lum has persistently challenged the precepts of the established art world through public presentations, writing and teaching. He has a particular interest in opening the field to include non-European artists. In 2000 he co-founded Yishu: Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art and has undertaken curatorial work in Africa, China and the United Arab Emirates. Taken together, Ken Lum's activities constitute an active, critical engagement with the public as to what art is, how it is used and who has access to it."