Artistic duo Cozic among winners of Governor General’s Awards for arts

OTTAWA — The artistic duo Cozic says the Canada Council for the Arts got a “two-for-one bargain” in jointly awarding them $25,000 for more than half a century of creative collaboration.

Yvon Cozic and Monic Brassard, who prefer to be known as a singular artist, were announced among the eight winners of the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts on Wednesday.

But it’s not only prize money the collaborators will be sharing. They work in the same studio space, live in the same home in Sainte-Anne-de-la-Rochelle, Que., and are bound together both in marriage and their mutual artistic identity as Cozic.

“(Cozic) was a continuity of our quotidian life,” Brassard said in a phone interview.

“It was a way to really live things together … to split everything, even our creation.”

When the pair met at a Montreal arts school in the early 1960s, Brassard said they bonded over a common desire to “democratize” the artistic experience.

They have spent more than 50 years pursuing that goal with works made of recycled materials, sculptures that invite public participation and creations embedded in nature.

Initially, each presented as an individual artist. But as their solo practices bled into one another, their artistic perspectives consolidated, and the so-called two-headed, four handed creator Cozic was born.

“It’s sort of a reflection of the artistic ego,” Yvon Cozic said. “When we melt the ego of Monic and mine, we make another ego.”

Their radical partnership has influenced generations of artists in Quebec, said Brassard, but it has also been a shared journey of self-discovery.

As Cozic, the two insist they never fight. Like any couple, there are days when one may wake up in a foul mood, said Brassard. But when they walk into the studio, any marital discord is left at the door.

“When you work with somebody else, every movement you make, everything you do, you look at life (through) the look of the other,” she said.

Cozic is among several honourees receiving a Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award.

Others being recognized for their body of work include Newfoundland environmental artist Marlene Creates and Toronto-based multimedia artists Andrew James Paterson and Stephen Andrews.

Two of the recipients also share a surprising connection: Toronto-based Indo-Canadian filmmaker Ali Kazimi made a documentary in 1997 about his fellow winner, Iroquois photographer Jeff Thomas, who lives in Ottawa.

Glass artist Susan Edgerley of Val-Morin, Que., won the Saidye Bronfman Award and will have some of her works acquired by the Canadian Museum of History for its permanent collection. Lee-Ann Martin, an independent curator of Indigenous art based in Carp, Ont., will receive the Outstanding Contribution Award.

Gen. Julie Payette will host an awards ceremony at Rideau Hall on March 28. Later that day, the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa will hold a public viewing of an exhibition of the winners’ works, which is set to run until Aug. 5, 2019.

The Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts are funded and administered by the Canada Council for the Arts. Independent peer juries select the winners, who each receive $25,000.

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