Maggy Hamel-Metsos awarded BMO 1st Art! prize as Quebec regional winner for her artistic work

Prize-winning “No Place to Stand” takes a dive into the importance of both public and private spaces

Concordia graduate Maggy Hamel-Metsos has won a competition prize with her piece “No Place to Stand.” Courtesy William Bobby Sabourin

BMO 1st Art! competition winner Maggy Hamel-Metsos explores themes of perception and identity within domestic spaces in her illustration “No Place to Stand.”

Every year the BMO financial group announces thirteen regional winners and one national winner for its annual BMO 1st Art! Competition, and this year Concordia graduate Hamel-Metsos is Quebec’s regional winner.

Over 100 Canadian post-secondary institutions are asked to choose three students in their final year of fine arts studies to submit some of their work to the competition. Winners receive a cash prize and have their work featured in the 1st Art! Toronto exhibition space available for online viewing.

The 2021 selection committee consisted of three members who selected this year’s winners based on original concepts.

 Hamel-Metsos’ work focuses on how you find yourself in a relationship to what the drawings symbolize. 

The artist revealed what draws her to creating and how that inspired her BMO 1st Art! submission. “I think there’s something weird in the domestic. [...] I always [portray] these things that I have a weird relationship with because they intrigue me.”

Hamel-Metsos’ concept is an installation space featuring two graphite illustrations on black acrylic, one of a window frame with curtains and the other of a long draped curtain. 

Jury member for BMO 1st Art!, Anne-Marie St-Jean Aubre, was fascinated by the idea Hamel-Metsos captured and the quality of her work. 

“Her work looks interesting and I’m sure she has a fair chance of a strong future as an artist.” — Leopold Plotek

“It's an installation which makes the work really stand out. [...] The rendering of her drawings and the conceptual idea of not being able to place oneself in the actual space [or] that tension of being closed in the domestic space [makes it stand out],” she said. “Also her title is very interesting, ”No Place to Stand.” Are you looking from outside in or from inside out? It’s not really clear where you stand in relation to the artwork.” 

The jury reviews hundreds of dossiers and boils them down to a handful of finalists. 

“For this year, what was very interesting is that most of the students were affected by the pandemic so they didn’t have access to their studio, to school, to create their projects. [...] It forced the students to be very creative with what they could do,” said St-Jean Aubre.

BMO 1st’s focus is incentivizing young artists. “The prize is really supporting young artists finishing their studies. It’s a way of saying ‘You do great work you should continue in that direction,’” added St-Jean Aubre.

Leopold Plotek, a drawing and painting teacher in the faculty of Fine Arts at Concordia University said the competition has potential for pushing young artists further into their creativity, but also underlined how crowded and competitive the art world is.

“Prizes and honours can be a powerful incentive for young ambitions, but I have seen enough brilliance go unrecognized and enough silliness find patronage, to take neither too seriously,” said Plotek. Nonetheless, he sees the potential in Hamel-Metsos’ work. “That being said, I'm pleased for Ms. Hamel-Metsos. Her work looks interesting and I'm sure she has a fair chance of a strong future as an artist.”

Even Hamel-Metsos highlights the challenge of having artwork recognized. “You can make good art but the jury’s not gonna like it [...] for many different reasons. They’re just not gonna choose you for it, for things that are out of your control,” she said. 

Now, after having won a nationally recognized award, Hamel-Metsos plans to keep working towards a larger studio space and continue working on her craft.