Saturday, April 17, 2010
East meets West as cultures coalesce at Asian-Canadian art exhibit Made in Canada
When it comes to Canada's cultural landscape, it seems that the artists that often define our national identity are those which bring a unique multicultural perspective to their work. Case in point: Made in Canada, a new exhibit on display now at the Shenkman Arts Centre, which showcases the works of 11 prolific Asian-Canadian artists.
The exhibit is a joint collaboration between the Ottawa School of Art and the Canadian Council Art Bank, yet it was originally conceived by an unlikely champion of Asian-Canadian art: Guillermo Trejo, a Mexican-born artist and curator. "Asian-Canadians are the biggest ethnic group in the country, so there was a lot to draw on," says Trejo. "All of the works are from contemporary artists working and living in Canada, but whose works are also related to their Asian heritage."
Indeed, the dozens of pieces on display are a potent blend of Eastern and Western themes, many of which also mix old world sensibilities and contemporary style. Montreal-based artist Karen Tam, for example, cleverly explores the nature of systemic racism in Ching-Chong Chinaman, Sitting on a Wall..., a work that features Asian-inspired cut outs while also using the old ethnic slur to highlight her traditional motif.
Asian symbolism also plays a recurring role in the exhibit. Hong Kong-born and Ottawa-based painter Howie Tsui, for instance, mixes graffiti, pop culture
and traditional Chinese imagery in Bipolar, a sprawling, eye-catching painting that combines seemingly opposing imagery in one seamless and complex image.
In the end, Made in Canada is more than just an art exhibit, it's an event that celebrates the contributions of Canada's Asian community, proving that our art is as diverse and innovative as the cultures that define our country.
Made in Canada
@ Shenkman Arts Centre (245 Centrum Blvd. Orleans)
Until April 25
MADE IN CANADA; Works from the Collection of Canada Council Artbank
March 25 - April 25, 2010
Ottawa School of Art - Orleans Campus / Shenkman Arts Centre
Asian/Canadian artists from the Canada Council Art Bank Collection
Millie Chen (Taipei, Taiwan)
Will Kwan (Hong Kong, China)
Richard Leong (Burnaby, Canada)
Edward Pien (Taipei, Taiwan)
Paul Robles (Philippines)
Karen Tam (Montreal, Canada)
Howie Tsui (Hong Kong, China)
Chuang Ying-Yueh (Taipei, Taiwan)
Jin-me Yoon (Seoul, South Korea)
Gu Xiong (China)
Lin Xu (China)
Asian Canadians are the largest ethnic group in Canada. They are present in almost all provinces and territories and they have succeeded in becoming an integral part of this country. As a community, Asian Canadians work hard to maintain their traditions as a fundamental element of their social and economic life. The success this community has had maintaining their traditions and in seeing them included in the larger Canadian society is demonstrated by the presence of Asian Canadians in almost every social and commercial sector in the country.
The process of cultural integration is not always easy. It is often preceded by cultural conflict and a period where the traditions and social structures of both the established and the new cultural groups are challenged.
This period of challenge and change has become a focal point in contemporary art as artists new to Canada cast doubt on accepted notions of nationalism and local traditions. At the same time these artists highlight the processes of immigration and globalization as inevitable elements of change and as conditions of the new social dynamics in a global economy.
The artists selected for this show – some of them born outside Canada while others are first or second generation Canadians – are the product of this process; their art is a reflection of the human struggle to find an identity. Their reality is an ongoing struggle to maintain their heritages in their daily lives. Their work focuses on their experiences as immigrants and in their sometimes-contradictory relationships with their traditions and heritage. Regardless of their various circumstances and backgrounds, all of them consider themselves as Canadians, and they consider this country as their home.
The main characteristic of the pieces in this exhibition is the reuse of traditional elements, such as culturally based materials and concepts. The artists contrast them with accepted Canadian notions with the intention to produce visual metaphors of their own experiences. Their Asian traditions are blended with Western ideas and it is evident that these artists want to create a paradox for the viewer where the contradiction of traditional concepts is the only solution and this solution is MADE IN CANADA.
This exhibition would not be possible without the support and help of the Canada Council Art Bank and the Canada Council for the Arts, who are aware of the social changes facing this country and who also are open to receiving and integrating the views of other communities by giving them the opportunity to be part of the cultural life of this multicultural country.