School of Art, Art History & Design alumna wins major printmaking prize

Her Majesty Queen Sonja of Norway (right) presents the Queen Sonja Print Award 2018 to Emma Nishimura on Nov. 8. Photo: Nina Rangøy / NTB scanpix.
Her Majesty Queen Sonja of Norway (right) presents the Queen Sonja Print Award 2018 to Emma Nishimura on Nov. 8. Photo: Nina Rangøy / NTB scanpix.

School of Art, Art History & Design alumna wins major printmaking prize

calendar icon16 Nov 2018    

Lincoln, Neb.--Emma Nishimura (M.F.A. 2013) has won the Queen Sonja Print Award. The award carries a $50,000 prize, along with a week-long residency in Sweden. Nishimura received the award Nov. 8 at a ceremony at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.

“It’s all feeling very surreal still,” Nishimura said of winning the award. “I was thinking it was just an incredible honor to be nominated. And then I found out I won, and I think I’m still speechless trying to talk about that.”

With its focus on international graphic art in all its expressions and techniques, the Queen Sonja Print Award, established in 2011, is one of the most prestigious prizes for printmaking. The award is presented every other year.

Her Majesty Queen Sonja of Norway, a recently trained and avid printmaker, created the award to generate interest in printmaking and to encourage young artists to develop their craft.

Only 42 artists were nominated for the 2018 Award by curators, museum directors and fellow artists from all over the world. Nishimura was nominated by 2016 nominee Joscelyn E. Gardner.

“I’ve always revered and admired her and her career, so it was such an honor to be nominated by her,” Nishimura said.

Nishimura traveled to London to accept the award.

“It was incredible,” she said. “The award ceremony was at the Royal Academy of Arts. It was a beautiful presentation of Norwegian arts and culture.”

Famed English artist David Hockney was also there to receive the first Lifetime Achievement Award.

“I got to sit beside him and chat with him during the ceremony, so that was amazing,” Nishimura said. “I was a little starstruck, and it was just wonderful to chat with him about his printmaking and his art career.”

School of Art, Art History & Design Director Francisco Souto was not surprised at the high honor for Nishimura.

“Right from the beginning of her time here at Nebraska, Emma proved to be an extremely dedicated and intelligent artist with a great deal of artistic potential,” Souto said. “Emma’s strengths are found in all the aspects of art making. Her character is perfectly suited to accomplish goals that challenge herself beyond her own limits of technical and conceptual comfort. Both her meticulous attention to detail and her calmness provide perfect background to execute delicate and powerful work. Her very intense concentration and rigorous attention to intricate details are rather remarkable.”

Nishimura lives and works near Toronto, Canada, where she teaches at the University of Guelph. Her work ranges from traditional etchings, archival pigment prints, drawings and audio pieces to art installations. Her work is in public and private collections and has been exhibited nationally and internationally.

Her work explores notions of memory and how history is interpreted and renegotiated, through a varied use of traditional and contemporary printmaking techniques. From miniscule hand-etched texts used in the topographic contours on maps, to photogravure on paper successfully molded three-dimensionally, she incorporates traces of history and individual stories exploring spatial and temporal realities.

Her current body of work explores how the memories associated with the Japanese Canadian internment have been quietly stored and packed away. Drawing inspiration from a traditional form of Japanese packaging known as “furoshiki,” family stories have been layered into the folds of a wrapping meant to carry or protect. Memories have been captured, recorded and archived.

“She is special in the intangible areas that define a good artist: curiosity, inventiveness, patience, discipline and problem solving,” Souto said. “Emma has been one of the greatest students I have had the great pleasure and opportunity to work with. I am extremely proud of her and her accolades speak volumes about the great program we have here at Nebraska.”

Nishimura is grateful for this recognition of her work.

“It’s such a deep honor to have received this award, and it’s incredibly generous,” she said. “And it’s a real launching pad for me in terms of getting international recognition and to encourage people to see my work and hear the stories behind the work. My work is very much about Japanese Canadian history, but also just about how we deal with past traumas and how we carry stories forward.”

To see more of her work, visit her website at