Andreas Rutkauskas The Prefix Prize

Urbanspace Gallery ⁠ accessible_forward
401 Richmond St W, Ground Fl
May 5–Jun 25
    Andreas Rutkauskas, Mount Christie Wildfire, 2020, from the series After the Fire. Courtesy of the artist and Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art, Toronto

The recipient of the second annual Prefix Prize is Andreas Rutkauskas. A native of Winnipeg who currently resides in Kelowna, B.C., Rutkauskas is a photographic artist whose site-specific installations often present photography in an expanded field that includes video, audio, and virtual reality, as well as monumental vinyl appliqués. Approaching photography as a creative documentarian, he typically produces projects that feature landscapes marred by industrial and technological intervention.

While Rutkauskas’s past works have addressed subjects such as surveillance along the Canada–U.S. border and industrialization and deindustrialization in Alberta’s oil patch, his most recent project engages with wildfires in Western Canada. In this, his first solo exhibition in Toronto, Rutkauskas presents After the Fire (2019, ongoing), a series inspired by his personal experiences with wildfire seasons of increasing intensity. In this work, he responds to the global policies of fire suppression designed to protect natural resources, offering an alternative to dominant media representations of forest fires as inherently destructive.

By photographing landscapes in the aftermath of fires—in some cases, months, years, or decades later—he shifts the emphasis from destruction to regeneration. His work serves as a reminder that, while some forest fires are the result of misguided policies, ill-considered development, or reckless human behaviour, others are natural occurrences that aid in cycles of regrowth. This reminder, coincident with a growing awareness of the urgent need to respond to climate change, is both a call to action and a cause for optimism.

Launched in 2021, the Prefix Prize is awarded annually to a photographic artist of any nationality. Designed to honour artists at any stage of their careers who have yet to receive the recognition they deserve, the prize consists of an exhibition, a publication, and a cash award of $2,000.00. This year’s prize was juried by seven senior photography experts drawn from the local, national, and international communities, including Claire Dawson, co-founder and creative director, Underline Studio; Logan MacDonald, artist, curator, and assistant professor at the University of Waterloo; Scott McLeod, founding director, Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art; José Roca, artistic director, Flora Ars y Natura and the 23rd Biennale of Sydney; Tara Smith, programs director, Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival; and Jennifer Young and Caroline Laxton, co-chairs, Project Development, Partners in Art.

In addition to choosing the recipient of this year’s prize, the jury recognized Ethan Murphy with an honourable mention. An artist from St. John’s, Newfoundland, Murphy explores the rural environment of his home province in the wake of the cod moratorium. His work reflects his shifting perspective as he leaves and returns to the island.

Curated by Scott McLeod

The Prefix Prize is presented by Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art with the assistance of presentation partners Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, Tangled Art and Disability, and Underline Studio, and founding partner, Partners in Art

Andreas Rutkauskas is a photographic artist. He received a BFA from the University of Manitoba (Winnipeg) and an MFA in Photography from Concordia University (Montréal). His work has been exhibited in art galleries, museums, and artist-run centres across Canada and internationally. The recipient of numerous residencies including the Canadian Forces Artists Program, the Chilkoot Trail Artist Residency and the Banff Centre, he most recently completed the inaugural residency at the Fondation Grantham pour l’art et l’environment (Saint-Edmond-de-Grantham, QC). A research fellow with the Canadian Photography Institute, National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa) in 2018, he is currently a lecturer in Creative Studies, Visual Arts at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan Campus.