by Michael Turner
Established in 1987 by the Jack and Doris Shadbolt Foundation for the Visual Arts, the annual VIVA Awards honour two mid-career artists who have made a “contribution to the advancement of the visual arts in British Columbia and their appreciation by the public.” In association, in 2008, architect Abraham Rogatnick initiated and funded the biannual Alvin Balkind Curator’s Prize. And in 2017, the Yosef Wosk Family Foundation did the same for the annual Max Wyman
Award for Critical Writing, to be given in collaboration with the VIVAs and the Balkind. Under normal circumstances, the VIVA Awards are announced at a lively gala featuring speeches from recipients and jurors alike, but this year’s presentation, like last spring’s, was online. Recipients of the 2021 VIVA Awards are Diyan Achjadi, an Indonesian-Canadian artist and ECUAD professor who works in drawing, printmaking, collage and animation, and Samuel Roy-Bois, a Quebec-born sculptor and UBC Okanagan associate professor who uses site specific installation and sound to “question the ways architecture shapes our understanding of the world.” The Balkind went to Tokyo-born independent curator Makiko Hara, co-founder of the Pacific Crossings curatorial initiative, and the Wyman was awarded to Preview contributor Robin Laurence, an independent writer, critic and curator based in Vancouver.
Although happy for all the recipients, I am particularly pleased to see Laurence get her due. For three decades she was the Georgia Straight art critic, filing weekly reviews and the occasional profile. In addition to writing criticism, she has contributed to more than 60 books and exhibition catalogues. In the words of Yosef Wosk, Laurence “helps us to see. The pandemic has placed tight restrictions on our ‘live’ experience of the arts, but if we can’t be physically present, the next best thing is the virtual experience, augmented by … a voice we can trust.”