Commentary by Ron Shuebrook
As a member of the Strathbutler Awards jury, I was impressed with the range of creative disciplines and diversity of the aesthetic directions of the nearly two-dozen applicants. Moreover, the high quality of their submitted works as well as the commitment of each artist to the cultural community of New Brunswick suggested great potential for the further nurturing of excellent standards of creative practice and achievement in the visual arts and fine crafts.
In my judgment, the jury respected the complex, creative aspirations of the individual artists as well as the diverse influences of cultural precedent and traditions, levels and nature of patronage, and socio-political-economic realities in the difficult selection of the four short-listed artists.
The body of expressive works submitted by each of these short-listed artists exemplified a persuasive self-awareness, a personal vision, and a critical integration of diverse subjects, formal structures, and selected media. Although all of these short-listed artists employed references to pertinent aspects of contemporary society and to regional and geographic particularities in their practices, there are no stylistic similarities between them, nor do they seem overly concerned about the theoretical imperatives that tend to dominate the international art world. I greatly admire their brave engagements with the urgent realities of place, and their personally determined approaches to pictorial, formal, and narrative construction . Whether rigorously employing traditional representational conventions of drawing and painting; creatively distilling complex icons and implied meanings from nautical landscapes in modestly-scaled prints of technical mastery and visual insight; constructing witty, and energetic graphic fictions; or critically adapting the technologies and images of mass communication to political observation and commentary, these four accomplished artists offer proof that there are many, valid and relevant ways to make significant art in our time.
The artist (David Umholtz) who was finally selected to be the recipient of the Strathbutler Award has been a remarkably dedicated and original creator for many decades. His long national and international career as a printmaker, master printer, educator, cultural activist, entrepreneur, and mentor has influenced generations of students, and other professional practitioners across Canada and elsewhere.