Artists explore the idea of culture and attachment

Encounter by Marigold Santos. | Photo by Guy L’Heureux, courtesy of Richmond Art Gallery.

Encounter by Marigold Santos. | Photo by Guy L’Heureux, courtesy of Richmond Art Gallery.

Through their joint exhibition Attachments, showing at the Richmond Art Gallery from June 27 to Aug. 17, Lucie Chan and Marigold Santos raise discussions on identity, separation and the idea of cultural attachment.

Marigold Santos, who immigrated to Canada from the Philippines when she was six years old, uses this experience as a departure point of her work. She also draws inspiration from Filipino folklore and will showcase large scale drawings on canvas in the exhibit.

Lucie Chan, a Guyanese-Canadian artist, highlights her one-on-one encounters with people who explore the ideas of culture. Her works in the exhibit will feature drawing installations and some sculptural elements.

To detach, adjust and integrate

Chan, who moved to Canada from Guyana when she was eight years old, recalls that the language, the way people looked and the landscape were the biggest differences she noticed as a child.

“I remember things felt really massive. I’d also never seen so many white people and I was fascinated with their features: their eyes and nose, I could not stop staring at people with green or grey or blue eyes” she says.

Santos, who also moved to Canada from the Philippines at the young age of six, says that although there were many changes – such as learning a new language or adjusting to the weather, social structures and pop culture – she thinks that these encounters are not specific to her alone.

“I don’t necessarily think I was an outsider looking in, because I felt like in many situations I was but I think when you’re that age, the most important thing you want is to just fit in,” says Santos.

In Attachments, Chan explains that she and Santos work with the ideas of culture, where culture is broadly and differently defined by each artist.

Being a shape-shifter

Take Me Back (Onde Eu Pertenço) by Lucie Chan. | Photo courtesy of Richmond Art Gallery.

Take Me Back (Onde Eu Pertenço) by Lucie Chan. | Photo courtesy of Richmond Art Gallery.

As Guyana is a racially heterogeneous country, Chan’s background makes her become, what she calls, a shape-shifter or one who looks different all the time.

“I have many different backgrounds, I’m Chinese, I’m Black, I’m East Indian, I’m Portuguese. I could have my hair out and it’s a big Afro. Or I might just be having a day where I’m feeling more black or there are times I’m feeling more Chinese,” she says.

Chan explains that she has grown up in an environment where she did not have to try connecting to one specific culture or choosing one over the other, but accepting and living with these various cultures.

Santos also refers to the term shape-shifter for a Filipino folklore character called the Asuang, from which she draws inspiration in her art works.

In the definition that Santos grew up understanding, the Asuang is a creature that is a hybrid of a vampire and a witch, a shape-shifter who can separate from the waist up and would leave her lower half behind at night to fly and hunt. She would then have to rejoin the lower half in the morning, otherwise she would die, fragmented.

Santos says that having multiple senses of self and being many other things in Filipino mythology, the Asuang reflects on the theme of ‘self’ that Santos engages in for her artwork.

“I reference this character but then I reconfigure, contemporize and identify it so it becomes a little bit more personal,” she says.

Relating to Attachments

Santos says that although there are specific foundations that she references in her art works, it is not necessary for the viewer to know them; but rather, she hopes to communicate with and engage the viewers to the point where they can insert their own experiences and how they relate to the idea of attachments.

Chan explains that as her works are very dense, they represent a kind of confusion, and she hopes that the viewers will find poignant moments in the images where they can connect and resonate with and share these stories with others.

Attachments will be held at the Richmond Art Gallery from June 27 to Aug. 17.
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