The national scale Kingston Prize Portrait Competition comes with a purse of $20,000. Thirty finalists are chosen to have their work included in the award’s prestigious touring exhibition. In addition to the juried first place winner and two honourable mentions, visitors of the exhibit choose a People’s Choice Winner.

“The Kingston Prize provides an opportunity for Canadians to celebrate gifted artists in a way that was not previously available.The interest from artists and the public has grown exponentially since the inception of the Kingston Prize in 2005,” Organizers of the competition say.

Among this year’s finalists is local painter and sculptor John McDonald, a Newfoundland and Labrador Arts & Letters Awards winner, and the 2015 winner of the Excellence in Visual Arts Large Year Award.

McDonald received critical acclaim for his 2012 show John McDonald: You Don’t Know Cold, which he completed during an Elbow Room Residency at The Rooms. His work has been displayed in Newfoundland, Quebec, and Ontario, as well as in England and France.

A recent Exhibit of John’s. Credit” Chris Crockwell Photography

“I found out Friday via e-mail while salmon fishing in Salmonier River. I had just lost a fish and so I decided to rest the pool and check my phone, that’s when I received the message I had made the finals, so I went from being totally defeated to elated,” McDonald.

The competition invites Canadian artists to depict a Canadian citizen or landed immigrant in a portrait based on a real life encounter. Organizers explained the competition aims to develop a historical record of Canadians, by Canadian artists. “Each exhibition becomes a fascinating snapshot of a cross-section of Canadian life,” Organizers say.

McDonald’s piece titled “Peephole” (pictured above, by his headshot) gives us the slightly distorted view from a fish-eye peephole in an apartment door. We see a man who resembles McDonald standing in the hallway, eyes cast down, waiting to be accepted into the apartment.

The painting plays with the theme of art as voyeurism, it places the viewer in the position of the person behind the door, free to evaluate McDonald without being seen.

“I was staying at a hotel room in Corner Brook Newfoundland and Labrador when I took the photographs for this painting. I was interested in drawing a parallel between cell phone/online voyeurism and the classic peephole/keyhole voyeurism. There’s a feeling of being watched that I get when standing in front of a peephole that makes me think of how our digital communications are being monitored,” McDonald said.


A panel of three judges determined the 30 finalists, whose work will now become part of the national touring exhibition. This year’s judges included Sara Angel, Founder and Executive Director of the Art Canada Institute, Dr. Catharine Mastin, Director of the Art Gallery of Windsor and Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Windsor, and artist Glen Priestly.

“The exhibition gives much needed public exposure to talented Canadian artists, while at the same time sparking interest, conversation and inspiration in the visitors attending the exhibitions,” Organizers said.

The exhibit runs from October 6th – 22n d2017 in Firehall Theatre, Gananoque Ontario, before moving to Peel Art Gallery Museum + Archives where it will run from November 4th  through January 2018.