11/30/2012 12:56 EST | Updated 01/30/2013 05:12 EST

Toronto artist triumphs in $25K RBC Canadian Painting Competition

A young graduate of Toronto's OCAD University has captured the $25,000 top prize in the RBC Canadian Painting Competition, an annual contest celebrating emerging visual artists.

Vanessa Maltese was named winner for her oil painting Balaclava at an event in Toronto Thursday night hosted by the Canadian Art Foundation and title sponsor Royal Bank.

"Balaclava stood out in its ability to reconcile depth and surface, pattern and illustration, material and subject, to create a dynamic, highly resolved composition," the jury panel said, adding praise for the artist's "assured vocabulary that encompassed both hard-edged and gestural forms."

3 dimensions on a 2-dimensional surface

Maltese, who holds a bachelor of fine arts in drawing and painting degree, said in her online bio that she is interested in the relationship between painting and architectural form, with her work employing optical illusions to suggest three dimensions on a two-dimensional surface.

"My work attempts to renegotiate the meaning of painting. My work acknowledges the limitations of traditional painting mechanisms through a contemporary lens," she wrote.

Organizers cited two other finalists — Montreal's Betino Assa (Gathering in the forest 12 am) and Vancouver's Katie Lyle (White Night) — for honourable mentions and awarded them $15,000 each.

As part of the prize, Balaclava, Gathering in the forest 12 am and White Night will be added to RBC's corporate art collection, which includes more than 4,000 artworks.

The work of all 15 finalists is on display online, at Toronto's Power Plant gallery through Dec. 3 and will be featured in Canadian Art magazine.

Emerging talent

"Congratulations to this year's winners as they are tremendous examples of the kind of talent emerging from Canada's arts scene," RBC curator Robin Anthony said in a statement.

"Each year, we are impressed by the amazing talent within Canada," added Ann Webb, foundation executive director and publisher of Canadian Art.

"The competition enables us to play an integral role in helping to develop and showcase the next generation of visual artists as they build their practice."

The painting competition was established in 1999 to nurture and support new artists at an early stage of their careers.