Artist reinterprets Chinese symbols in exhibition

Chinese-born, Montreal-based artist Chun Hua Catherine Dong reinterprets traditional Chinese symbols and practices in an exhibition hosted by the Varley Art Gallery of Markham.

In doing so, Dong is exploring explore her hybrid cultural identity, navigating her ambivalent relationship to her homeland, and challenging social binaries and stereotypes.

Skin Deep examines the link between shame and the face in Chinese culture. In this series of photographic self-portraits featuring an augmented reality component, Dong conceals her face in the same traditional Chinese silk fabrics that comprise the background. The expression of shame and loss of individuality reflects Dong’s experiences as a young woman in China and as an immigrant in Canada.

In I Have Been There, Dong covers her body with a silk duvet as she lies on the ground at culturally significant sites or events around the world. Her performance is based on a funeral tradition in her hometown of Yueyang in Hunan Province, in which the daughters of a deceased person each make a duvet to place over their loved one’s body.

Dong was listed among the 10 Artists Who Are Reinventing History by Canadian Art in 2017. She was awarded with Cultural Diversity in Visual Arts from the Conseil des arts de Montréal in 2021. The exhibition is curated by Tara Ng, an art historian and independent curator who’s currently an editorial and programming associate at the Art Canada Institute.

The exhibition is organized by the Art Gallery of Hamilton and runs at the Varley Art Gallery at 216 Main St., Unionville from Saturday, Sept. 17 to Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. Click here to learn more.

Photo of Chun Hua Catherine Dong, I Have Been There–Vanier Park, Vancouver, Canada, 2018, performance and photograph, courtesy of the artist.

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