Art Exchange 2019/20
Exhibition: Flags of Empowerment
In partnership with:
Full scholarships provided by:
Terrence and Lisa Turner
Elmar and Christine Klukas
Xin Yi Li
Ashlee Conery, Vancouver Art Gallery
Roxanne Gagnon, Artistic Director, Art & Design, Arts Umbrella
Jocelyn Sanchez, Coordinator, Art & Design, Arts Umbrella
Celia Jong, Programming Administrative Assistant- Education and Public Programs, Vancouver Art Gallery
Susan Rome, Youth and School Program Coordinator, Vancouver Art Gallery
About the Project
Brands, like flags, are intended to be easily recognized at a distance, or among many other symbols, and to recall certain messages, qualities or powers. Like flags, we attach brands to ourselves both physically and digitally, on our clothes and as character or status references on social media profiles. The conflation of personal identity and brand identity is not dissimilar to the conflation of self with nationality, and, today, personal brands have become as important to individuals as to corporations and politicians—many of whom align or filter their identities through the imagery of popular musicians, artists, fashion labels and social campaigns on TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook, to name only a few.
As part of Arts Umbrella’s ongoing collaboration with the Vancouver Art Gallery, 13 young people participating in the 2019/20 Art Exchange program were asked to consider and respond to the question: “What is your brand, and who or what does it empower?”
Under the mentorship of artist-educators, Andre Seow and Fiona Mowatt, participants created their own symbols of personal power or empowerment, which were then printed on flags and installed in the Gallery’s 3rd Floor Rotunda as part of the interpretive area for the exhibition The Tin Man Was a Dreamer: Allegories, Poetics and Performances of Power.
About Art Exchange
Art Exchange is a full scholarship visual arts program for students ages 12-15, a collaboration between Arts Umbrella and the Vancouver Art Gallery. Students explore, critique, and observe exhibitions at the Vancouver Art Gallery, before working with Arts Umbrella instructors to create their own work exhibition.
The class provides access to unprecedented direct experiential learning. Each month, the program begins at the Vancouver Art Gallery and then moves to Arts Umbrella the following Mondays to proceed with reflective studio practices based on the gallery exhibition. Students work with a variety of artists, innovators, and educators. This unique program is a wonderful opportunity for students who are interested in visual arts and want to explore, expand, and express their creative practice.
Music of the Steppe (2020)
Mixed media (acrylic and watercolour)
What empowers me most at present is the culture and nature of the Great Steppes of Eurasia. I come from Kazakhstan and the nomadic culture of my ancestors is a significant part of who I am. It is intrinsic to my artwork. Meanwhile, nature is a vital extrinsic factor to my creativity. I perceive all plants and creatures in nature as its music. My flag design is based on both. I depicted Shanyrak, the dome of the nomadic house-yurt that symbolizes the eternal sky, Eagle that is a symbol of freedom, Tulips that originated from those lands, and finally Fire that gives life to those who live in the harsh climate of the Steppe.
Glass of Water (2020)
Graphite on paper
This glass of water is neither half full, nor half empty. What does a full glass of water mean to you?
Bold Sound (2020)
Watercolour, black ballpoint pen
My artwork is in response to the concept of branding and what it represents for different people. My ‘brand’ is composed of the different things that I like and that represent me, here being music, going to the beach, and the use of watercolour that expresses my love for art.
Life Choice (2020)
Watercolour, gouache, pen and pencil
My flag is about the choices everyone can make in life. There are times when people can choose to move on or regret. They can restart with fresh ideas on life, or live in the life they made before. The choices you make, make you who you are today.
perspectives throughout the joy of thought (2020)
These are the thoughts I had on a rainy day. Thinking about things I realized I am very happy now and I think this is the way it could be expressed. It does not need explanation, as the art of happiness does not need one. That is the corniest utter nonsense but I think it’s true to me at least.
It’s Our Turn (2020)
Ink, paint, charcoal on paper
The majority of power in the world is held by an elite few. At times young people like myself struggle to voice our opinions in fear of not being taken seriously by those who hold power. However, it has become clear that we cannot remain silent any longer. This piece calls upon those who have clung to power to let go and share it with those who are no longer willing to wait for change.
All the fear and the fire (2020)
In this work I show, through the symbol of a quilt, the joy that comes from two things: the synthesis of different cultures in our communities, and the returning to the earth—rotting and decomposing. Through my use of an abundance of flowers, I signified the duality of vulnerability and strength that we need to go forward. In this piece, I show the beauty of all the things we come from and how we come back to them.
My flag represents my social groups primarily using the circle shape. I find empowerment and comfort around the people I trust, and talking to a variety of different people with their own opinions is something I greatly value. The straight lines throughout my piece symbolize the connections I have with distinct crowds of individuals and my relationships.
iPad Pro 2017, Procreate, Apple Pencil
This combination of symbols consists of a person covering their ears, mouth, and left eye, with a Third Eye on the forehead, the Third Eye representing: thought, conscious, and the subconscious. It represents how most people including me tend to think and behave—thinking before acting, first saying nothing or saying what will seed the best outcome. I’ve made this icon into a pattern with a rainbow gradient to represent individuality, society, the Rainbow flag and peace. I left the pupils black to symbolize that at the end of the day we are all the same, we are one species, one big civilization and we must unite to avoid chaos. What is most empowering about this for me is the power one person possesses, the power I possess—that every action, small or big, will affect someone else, and I am willing to use it for good.
Pen on paper
My sources of empowerment are numerous, changing, fluid, but also subjective. I wanted to create a piece that reflected all of its complexity and ambiguity, that was not one static symbol, meaning or message, but that represented many. In creating this piece, I wanted to draw in the viewer, to make them consider and think about what empowers me, but also them.
Look, not listen (2020)
Not all communication is verbal—often, subtle shifts in stance hold more truth than the words formed from one’s tongue. In this image the figure‘s hand over their mouth is a reminder that speech is not always required to convey meaning. They appear transparent and their organs are exposed in order to draw attention to the body, highlighting the often forgotten component of communication: one’s body language. Paying attention to this area has taught me to be more mindful while communicating, allowing me to better understand my friends and family.
Xin Yi Li
Avenoir consists of my name as well as a few of my interests, expressed through a simple design on a white background. The symbol in between the triangles is a mashup of a character of my name and a music note; I chose the colour red because of my interest in Chinese Calligraphy. The triangles represent the past and the future, with the bigger one representing the past. I have incorporated a few other meanings into my shapes, and I am excited to see what viewers can come up with.
1949 koi (2020)
Watercolour and paper
Koi in many different cultures are a representation of luck, as well as a creature with good qualities such as firmness to overcome obstacles. Both the skyline with the koi fish and the water it’s surrounded by, are all symbols that’s either correspond to my culture or are qualities I have, making this image a summary of my personal brand. I think when reading the title, people will have their own interpretation of the work, and that’s the exact blank space I want to leave for them to fill.