The Colours of Citizen Arar – Garry Neill Kennedy

2009 Finalist

Creator: Garry Neill Kennedy

Nominator: Ray Cronin

Seconders: Peter Dykhuis, Robin Metcalfe

Garry Neill Kennedy’s The Colours of Citizen Arar is a powerful, provocative wall painting that occupied the Zwicker Gallery at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia for nine months in 2007/8. Dramatically filling the space with intense vertical bands of colour, the work’s more sinister references slowly cohered out of the black shadows of the superimposed text: the colours were named in descriptions of the bruises, humiliations and instruments of torture experienced by Canadian citizen Maher Arar during his infamous interrogation in Syria. Kennedy’s large, conceptually challenging wall paintings, all employing the “Superstar Shadow” font, deal with issues of power in culture; however, due to the tension between its initial visual seductiveness and underlying tragic referent, this monumental yet evanescent work is his most overtly political and arguably most poignant.

Brief bio: Ontario-born Garry Neill Kennedy came to Nova Scotia in 1967 to head the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, establishing it as one of the most prominent art schools in North America. Stepping down as President in 1990, he remains a full professor at the College. Kennedy’s career as an internationally exhibited and critically acclaimed artist is equally stellar. His visually arresting and conceptually demanding works have garnered many significant awards and honours over the years.  The Colours of Maher Arar was exhibited from June 2007 to March 2008.