Gu Xiong: The Unknown Remains
Gallery A: August 24 to November 3, 2019
Gallery B: August 10 to October 27, 2019
Sometimes, a box is just a box. In rare cases, a box multiplied is a 40ft container ship, representing globalization, human migration and capitalism. Such is the case for multidisciplinary artist, UBC professor and Chinese Immigrant Gu Xiong, who is exhibiting his work The Unknown Remains at Touchstones Nelson; Museum of Art and History from August 24 to November 3.
The show, filling both galleries, will feature a variety of mediums including photographs from the Shawn Lamb archives, portraits of the Chinese community in Nelson, historical newspaper articles, drawings from Gu’s collection, and pages of his sketchbooks which were filled when Gu was a teenager in China and living in a labour camp. It also hosts a container ship made of 1,500 cardboard boxes, and a wall of 1,500 portraits of immigrant workers from Ontario and British Columbia.
Gu was born in Chongqing, Sichuan, China in 1953 and at age 17 was sent to a labour camp where, over the next five years, he honed his drawing skills by filling sketchbooks with scenes of rural life. He immigrated to Canada in 1989 after a successful year-long residency at the Banﬀ Centre for the Arts, just months before the political turmoil in China that led to the Tiananmen Square Massacre.
Much like the subjects of many of his works, Gu found himself as a landed immigrant in Canada with a BFA and MFA from his home country, yet working low-paying, general labour jobs. It was while bussing tables at the UBC cafeteria that he created his well-known series of crushed Coke can paintings that were displayed in a gallery in Vancouver, kicking oﬀ his art career in Canada. Although it was a diﬃcult road, Gu knows he made the right decision to immigrate. “Canada is a good place for me to express my ideas through art and share it with other people,” he said, “which is very important to me.”
This exhibition was made possible by the generous support of the Canada Council.