1 North Square, Cambridge, ON
Kai Chan expresses the small moments of daily life, employing materials and techniques that speak to tradition and modernity. To view Chan's artwork is to see him as a ‘master of the unremarkable’ – twigs, thread, toothpicks and buttons are the ephemeral materials that he employs to create transfixing ‘other-worlds.’ He works with common, household ‘things’ that are reminders of his years growing up in China. Chan has altered the gene pools of what constitutes sculpture and what constitutes textiles by manipulating and representing elements of the natural world to conjure impressions that play on natural phenomena, geographical boundaries and cultural influences.
Touring exhibition organized by the Textile Museum of Canada. Curated by Sarah Quinton.
Kai Chan was born in Chung Kiang, China and immigrated to Canada in 1966. He graduated from Chung Chi College in Hong Kong and completed a degree in interior design at the Ontario College of Art. His work is textile based and three-dimensional. While his preferred fibre medium is thread, his work often includes other materials such as paper, glass beads, ink, toothpicks, lawn grass, cinnamon sticks and glass. Chan has received grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council. In 1998 he received the Jean A. Chalmers National Crafts Award and was a winner of the Prix Saidye Bronfman Award for Excellence in Crafts in 2002. His work has been exhibited across Canada, Europe, Japan, Australia and the United States and may be found in collections at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, the Museum of Fine Arts, Huston, Texas, and the Musée des Arts Decoratifs de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec.
His work is critically received equally within the discipline of textiles and the visual arts. He participated in the prestigious 12th International Biennial of Tapestry in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1985, and the equally notable International Triennial of Tapestry in Lodz, Poland in 2001, where he exhibited Ocean, one in a series of complex wall hangings comprised of thousands of toothpicks and thread – an indication that woven tapestry is now only one textile process among many, thanks to artists like Chan whose work is seen in a contemporary context of textiles as substance, structure and subject matter.
Chan's work manifests both his physical journey from China to Canada and his personal journey as an artist negotiating a cross-cultural identity. He draws inspiration from the basic elements in his immediate surroundings: light, air, earth, water, flora and fauna. He has chosen to work with everyday, and often recyclable and found materials because, for him, the nature of these materials represents a fundamental value that informs the human condition.
Sarah Quinton graduated from and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 1982 and the Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia in 1985. She has been Curatorial Director at the Textile Museum of Canada, and has been a visiting lecturer and juror for many organizations and institutions in Canada and internationally. Quinton’s work with fabric, thread and stitching reflects her background as a dressmaker’s daughter, though occasionally she also introduces other materials such as wood doweling. Quinton has received awards from the Ontario Association of Art Galleries and a Curatorial Writing Award. Quinton has exhibited her work across the United States and Canada, including the Harbourfront Centre’s York Quay Gallery, the Ontario Crafts Council, and at Prime Gallery in Toronto.