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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.