The famous Canadian painter Emily Carr once said, “The better a portrait, the more indecent and naked the sitter must feel.” How fascinating, the idea that the subject of a portrait could feel so seen, and yet so exposed.
For many immigrants, this is not the reality. They often face the conflict of a double identity. On one hand, they might hold onto deep feelings of their motherland, wanting to preserve their original culture and identity. On the other hand, they are also doing their best to assimilate and adapt to the new environment, facing challenges in learning local lifestyle values, language, and customs.
Immigrants must all find their own balance while navigating between two worlds.
The continuous question of identity can cause stress and confusion for immigrants. It takes effort for them to explore and build their own identities. These exhibited self-portraits by immigrant artists reveal the ongoing conflicts and doubts on identity. Through their unique creative perspectives, these artists examine questions about their inner self with weight and sensitivity.
In the world of art, self-portraits are an expression of the complexity of identity, and a window to see multiculturalism within our perceptions of self and others. Through these works, we are reminded that each person has their own unique values and story, and the intertwining and interacting of these different values are an integral part of our diverse society.
James Lee Chiahan was born in Tainan, Taiwan and is currently working as a visual artist in Montréal, Canada. Interested in capturing moments representative of everyday life that explore the relationship between memory and experience, closeness and distance, James works to create images that are emotionally affecting but difficult to place into words. Some of his clients include Apple, The New York Times, and The Walrus.
With a professional training background in New York City, Alicia Chen, a Toronto-based interdisciplinary artist and curator, combines her creative talents to forge profound connections with diverse individuals.
In addition to her artistic pursuits, Alicia curates and organizes cultural events and actively gives back to her community. Recently, her work was showcased in The Washington Post. Her artistic journey has led her to collaborate with influential institutions, including Art Gallery of Ontario, The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Harbourfront Centre, the Artist Project, Arta Gallery, Joseph D. Carrier Art Gallery, and Peter Triantos Art Gallery. She has also lent her talents to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada, the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission), and Tourism Coquitlam.
Alicia’s artistic expression extends beyond traditional exhibition spaces, as her creations resonate within the heart of her community. Her work can be found adorning the walls of the TTC, capturing the imagination of commuters as they traverse the city.
Liang is the product of a global upbringing. He was born in Taiwan, but was raised from an early age in Mainland China. During his adolescence he relocated to Australia, and then later to Canada for high school and post-secondary education. Liang has since chosen to put down some permanent roots in Canada, and maintains a residence here to this day.
Liang skillfully captures the essence of life in Taiwan with an almost cinematic air. His intention is to rediscover the lost connection between himself and his homeland, as well as to personally experience Taiwan’s local culture. Liang’s artwork showcases to viewers the novel and simultaneously unfamiliar aspects of this treasured island, resembling elements of everyday life. Through his keen observation of Taiwanese culture, he strives to establish a personal connection with Taiwan’s local identity, piecing together a mosaic of his fragmented memories of Taiwan during his years of living abroad.
Tong Zhou, an artist based in Toronto, delves into the rich tapestry of intersecting identities, unveiling captivating narratives within the realms of culture, gender, sexuality, and social dynamics. With an acute focus on the human psyche, Tong Zhou embarks on a profound exploration of the intricate complexities that shape our minds, consciousness, and the very essence of our being. Themes of personal growth, introspection, self-reflection, and the relentless pursuit of meaning and purpose in existence find a profound resonance within his works. Through his art, Tong Zhou invites viewers to embark on a transformative journey of self-discovery and reflection.
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TAIWANfest Vancouver is grateful to be held on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam Indian Band), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish Nation), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh Nation). We acknowledge our privilege to be gathered here, and commit to work with and be respectful to the Indigenous peoples of this land while we engage in meaningful conversations of culture and reconciliation.