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2024. Material Memories . Craft Ontario Gallery . Toronto

‘Material Memories’ is a solo exhibition featuring mixed media works by Don Kwan, delving into the Chinese diasporic experience amidst the heightened challenges of loss, isolation, and anti-Asian racism during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Each piece in the exhibition takes the form of a wearable item, such as a waiter’s vest, a cheongsam dress, a face mask, or a suit jacket. These garments invoke the identity of the wearer, emphasizing their absence and prompting questions about the individual’s whereabouts. Whose dress is this and where did they wear it? Where are they now? Whose face was beneath this mask and did it protect them? Are they safe?

The clothes and masks are stitched from a scrapbook of materials, incorporating family photos, Chinese takeout menus, lucky red envelopes, and joss paper (spirit money). And, like a scrapbook, each material evokes complex feelings of nostalgia –– the pleasure and warmth of a fond memory tinged with the sadness at its loss. Takeout menus and red envelopes recall gatherings with family and friends, while joss money, traditionally used for ancestral veneration, is used to pay tribute to those lost during the Covid-19 pandemic.

As a third-generation Chinese Canadian, ‘Material Memories’ is a personal and introspective project for Don; a way to make sense and feel connection in a time when – individually and collectively – we were unmoored. Through the symbolic act of stitching, his work generously reconnects communities and families across space and time, and celebrates their strength and resilience.

Don Kwan is an Ottawa-based artist working in sculpture, installation, photography and performance. A third-generation Chinese Canadian, Don turns to his own experiences and challenges of being a gay, East Asian artist as a way to ground in broader conversations about identity, representations, and intergenerational memory-making in the diaspora. His work has been featured in exhibitions at Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Gardens, Vancouver; Ottawa Art Gallery; Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto; and Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Banff. In 2022, his year-long exhibit at the Ottawa Art Gallery titled ‘Landscape, Loss and Legacy’ was shortlisted for an award by Galeries Ontario / Ontario Galleries. During the same year, he was awarded the Peter Honeywell Mid-Career Artist Award by the Ottawa Arts Council.





对于作为第三代在加华裔的关日安来说,"物质记忆 "是私人且内省的;它让我们在这个个人与集体都倍感漂泊的时代理解和感受人与人的联结。通过象征着联结的缝合,他的作品将不同时空的社区和家庭重新联系在一起,庆祝他们的强大与坚韧。


艺术家关日安来自渥太华,目前以雕塑、装置、摄影和表演等形式进行创作。作为第三代华裔加拿大人,关日安以自身东亚同性恋艺术家的经历和面临的挑战为切入点,就离散人群的身份、象征和代际记忆传递展开广泛的对话。他的作品曾在温哥华中山公园、渥太华艺术馆、多伦多皇家安大略博物馆和班夫的加拿大落基山脉怀特博物馆展出。2022 年,他在渥太华美术馆的名为 "风景、遗失及传承"的年展入围安大略省美术馆协会奖。同年,他被渥太华艺术委员会授予彼得-霍尼韦尔中期艺术家奖。

Don Kwan acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council and Government of Ontario. photo credit Jocelyn Reynolds

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