Michael Fernandes is a Trinidad-born artist who came to Canada in the 1960s to study at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. His works often rely on polemical constructs like “us and them” to provoke a self-recognition on the part of the viewer. His installations have a sense of improvisation and literalism, which results in an intimacy and directness and opposes the packaged, the streamlined and the simulated. One could say—at least metaphorically—that his work is in the first person, present tense, and that it stands against facade and spectacle in favour of activism. Fernandes wishes to return us to a confrontation with valuation and to formulate a critique based on the local as opposed to the formal and “universal.”
At NSCAD, where he has taught since 1973, Michael is known for the subtlety of his pedagogical methods. He has exhibited extensively across Canada and abroad, notably at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, the National Gallery of Canada, MASS MoCA, and MoMA PS1. Michael lives in East Dover, Nova Scotia.
“Michael is one of Canada’s foremost artists—a national (and Nova Scotian) treasure.
His performances and exhibitions are regarded as among the most conceptually sophisticated and aesthetically uncompromising works being undertaken in Canada today. His interdisciplinary projects engage a dialogue between art, contemporary politics, the environment, the body, identity and community. Always employing incisive humour and serious play, Michael’s work has consistently challenged viewers, critics, peers and students.
As the longest standing teacher in the history of NSCAD, Michael’s influence continues to be profound. He has inspired, confounded and guided hundreds of students at NSCAD since 1973. He has unfailingly demonstrated a student-focused model of art education that instills in his students the understanding that success is doing what you want to do.”
Nominator: Craig Leonard, Associate Professor, Foundation/Expanded Media, Nova Scotia College of Art & Design
“Always employing incisive humour and serious play, Michael’s work has consistently challenged viewers, critics, peers and students.”