Humans of the Varley: Xiaojing Yan

I am an installation and sculpture artist born and raised in China. I came to Canada in 2001, moving around in Canada and the States, and eventually settling down in Markham in 2011. This is a place I found a sense of belonging, and a place I call home. And the Varley Art Gallery is the heart of the “home”.

In 2012, I was invited to exhibit along with many great artists in the group show (Da bao)(Takeout) at the Varley Art Gallery. My installation work “Bridge“, which was made by hanging hundreds of Chinese ceramic spoons to form a traditional Chinese three arc bridge, attracted a lot of attention from the audience.  Varley Art Gallery toured (Da bao)(Takeout) to many galleries across Canada. “Bridge” was appreciated by viewers nation-wide.  I grateful for the great exposure this exhibition has brought me. I was also involved in an educational summer camp project during the (Da bao)(Takeout) exhibition period as an guest artist at the Varley Art Gallery. With help from the summer camp leaders, the kids were able to follow my directions to create an installation work with individual, unique painted takeout cardboard boxes.  We also cast objects with plaster to transform their memory and affection of objects into artwork.

Markham is a city with the most diverse population. The Varley bridges and connects people of all cultures and backgrounds together. Not only does it showcase artists from abroad, connecting our community with the outside world, but it also provides strong support to local artists. My next show at the Varley is my solo exhibition titled Out from among the tranquil woods, which runs from September 23, 2017 to January 7, 2018. This exhibition investigates issues of mortality, belonging and contemplation from my perspective as a first generation Canadian. I hope this exhibition will encourage conversation and further discussion within the community.

From these experiences, I am having a positive impact on my immediate community, which has helped me define my role as an artist as well as a community member.  My personal growth as an artist has been supported and accompanied by the Varley.