Karen Tam: Made in Britain

January 17 to February 21, 2015

Karen Tam: Made in Britain

Karen Tam, Made in Britain (solo), 2015, Galerie Hugues Charbonneau, Montréal, Canada

Opening: Saturday, January 17 from 3 to 5 PM, artist in attendance

Karen Tam’s work revolves around issues relating to the representation of Asia in America and Europe through art, literature, media and consumer goods. She questions this slightly distorted Orient: an Orient tailor-made to the taste of the Western market.

Karen Tam
Moonflask Hauled Around in a Cardboard Box | Capt. Edward Watkins Whittington-Ince Moonflask 2012
Papier mâché, gesso, marqueurs
Papier-mâché, gesso, markers
2 comp. / 29 x 15 x 6.5 cm (11.5” x 6” x 2.5”)

Through appropriation and subversive strategies, Tam meticulously reproduces antiques, ornaments, traditional Chinese cutouts, typical interiors of Chinese restaurants and even opium dens. Yet, the artist maintains a subtle distinction between the original source of inspiration and her own interpretation from which emerges a clear critique that activates cultural and identity issues relating to racism and the globalization of trade.

Karen Tam
Sinography (Gold)
Papier doré découpé
Gold paper-cutout
176 comp. / 15 x 15 cm
Total : 243 x 168 cm

Ironically, Tam’s sculptures and installations appropriate and magnify the aesthetics of this China fantasized by and for the West, through cutouts whose traditional iconography has been subverted, antique porcelain made from papier-mâché, and decorative lanterns out of cardboard.

Karen Tam
From Frog’s Robe to Crow’s Feet and Dried Old Bones to Vinegar Drinkers
Tissu découpé (brillant)
Fabric cut-out (glitter)
143 x 394 cm (56” x 155”)

The cultural overlap that these contemporary chinoiseries reflect triggers again the history of trade routes between ‘East’ and ‘West’; it recalls the Canadian government’s exclusionary policies towards the Chinese; it deals with the imaging of cultures through contact and stereotypes; just as it updates the question of authenticity in contemporary art using a cultural studies framework.

Karen Tam, Made in Britain (solo), 2015, Galerie Hugues Charbonneau, Montréal, Canada

The exhibition Karen Tam. Made in Britain marks the return of the artist to Montreal, where her last solo show took place in 2005. The works presented for this occasion were made during the time she lived in London while completing her doctoral studies at Goldsmiths.

Karen Tam Turandot’s Trophies 2011
Fausses perles, fil à pêche
Imitation pearl beads, fishing wire
161 x 161 cm (63 1/2″ x 63 1/2″)

Karen Tam lives and works in Montreal, Britain and the United States. She holds a MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a PhD from the Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London. Since the 2000s, her work has been featured in exhibitions in Canada, Ireland, UK, Austria, United States, and China. She has been the recipient of multiple fellowships and grants and was on the longlist for the prestigious 2010 Sobey Art Award.

Karen Tam
Rex vs. Quong, 2006
Papier doré découpé
Gold paper-cutout
57 x 81 cm (22 1/2″ x 32″)