Lucie Chan installing ‘How to Be 57’ at Oxygen Art Centre by Deborah Thompson 2022

Oxygen Art Centre is pleased to offer a new exhibition, How to be 57 by visual artist Lucie Chan. Lucie Chan was born in Guyana, and currently resides on the unceded and ancestral territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-WaututhNations otherwise known as Vancouver, BC where she maintains a multi-disciplinary visual art practice and teaches at Emily Carr University of Art and Design.

Chan just completed a three week residency at Oxygen Art Centre. During the residency she was immersed in installing her large body of work, How to be 57. The work was created over a six year period, and first shown in 2018. The installation includes watercolour and ink drawings, handwritten text, and textural and found materials. 

During her residency she also conducted interviews with community members investigating experiences of racialized violence, and in particular, the varying experience of people of colour and immigrants today. These intimate conversations inspire and fuel her work. 

Critical to the development of How to be 57 was the artist’s conversation with two women, one a Dutch immigrant in France who finds herself interrogated in her home despite her innocence, and the other, an unarmed civil servant who suffers from racialized violence when her apartment is mistakenly raided. The work departs from the stories and emotions of these important conversations. 

How to be 57 is situated in the historic and contemporary struggle of the diasporic peoples, of women and of people of colour to find justice in a world ripe with systemic violence and injustices. A powerful body of work that both confronts and subdues the viewer. For Chan this work is a way of honouring the individual who is often forgotten in the collective experience of being human, and of conjoining individuals through sharing stories around culture and identity.

Much of the installation is paper-based, which the artist has used to create scrolls of rich colour and texture, cloud-like forms, passages of handwritten text and figurative watercolour and ink drawings. Immersed in her residency, Chan has thoughtfully unpacked and installed the hundreds of individual pieces of worked paper that form this body of work.

The exhibition is an immersive experience. A banner-like installation of text hangs diagonally across the gallery space from which the artist has attached layers of handwritten text. The tactile nature of the papers with their yellowing tones and the use of the ink is reminiscent of the delicate papyrus sheets of ancient texts such as, the Dead Sea scrolls. Words and quotes from a variety of sources are written across the sheets of paper, for example, I really think the range of emotions and perceptions I have had access to as a Black person and a female person are greater than those of people that are neither by Toni Morrison remind us that these issues are not new to society. 

During her residency, the artist gathered clothing from the community in shades of beige. She hung these articles of clothing on the gallery walls in clusters around her paperwork. These Chan says, serve to remind us that prejudices and stigmas are placed on people of non-white skin tones. Interesting to note that beige an unpopular colour and is often used for uniforms and work-related clothing and perhaps in this way holds a class-like demarcation. 

To attempt to grasp the multilayered emotions and messages of this exhibit is a daunting task; however, like wandering in dream imagery we find amongst the many elements that which speaks and resonates with us. Several figurative drawings hold the abstract and textural pieces. They are scattered throughout the installation almost as if they are hiding waiting to be discovered, for the smallness of scale does not contain the loudness of their voice, and the pathos that is at the heart of this work. 

How to Be 57 will be on view at Oxygen Art Centre from September 3rd to October 1st on Wednesdays to Saturdays from 1:00 – 5:00 pm. Admission is free. Everyone welcome to attend.

The artist will give an artist talk about the exhibition and her research on September 8th from 12:00 to 1:00 pm. The event will be held on Zoom. Register to attend via EventBrite or access the Zoom link via Oxygen’s website. Closed captioning will be available for the event.

Due to rising Covid cases in the province, we ask that all visitors to the space wear a mask. Maximum capacity is limited to ten persons at a time. Please contact the gallery with any questions about your visit.

Oxygen Art Centre