HEAR US NOW! supports artistic practices of BIPOC artists during COVID-19

Concordia’s Ethnocultural Art Histories Research group (EAHR) has done incredible work in creating a space to highlight the works of 20 BIPOC artists during the pandemic.

HEAR US NOW!, an exhibition presented by EAHR, displays various artworks, including installations, photography, and performances that engage with numerous topics, such as climate change, racism, and social justice activism.

According to their website, the EAHR group is a research group led by students from the Department of Art History. Since the summer of 2011, EAHR has been facilitating the possibilities of exchange and creation through various projects which aspire to provide a stimulating framework allowing problems of ethnic and cultural representation in the visual arts in Canada to be studied.

A call for submissions was announced in mid-June and closed at the end of August. As people were experiencing their first summer during the pandemic, the group decided to create an Instagram project to diffuse the works of BIPOC artists during these tumultuous and uncertain times.

Artists could submit a maximum of five artworks in any type of medium that could be posted on Instagram. After submitting the works, artists would receive a notification from the EAHR group within two weeks. Selected works would be posted every two weeks, allowing the audience to take a look at the different projects.

The works of multidisciplinary artist Jayce Salloum can be found in the online exhibition. Salloum is a grandson of Syrian immigrants and was raised in Syilx (Okanagan territory) in B.C. Salloum’s work originates from an intimate engagement of places. His works in the exhibition are from his project beyond now (2020), which are writings of texts that he selected to make sentences. On the slides, the audience can read sentences such as “racism inbred in the fabric of the constructed nation” and in smaller text “a pandemic of inequality.”

A second selection of Salloum’s work was shown recently for ISEA2020 (International Symposium on Electronic Art)’s collaborative projects with EAHR, entitled (pre)existing conditions. Salloum’s work exposes other fragments of texts such as “why does a virus have to appear to reveal how connected we all are” with a hashtag #impact_the_social or “white names our streets they’ve no claims here wrecking consciousness still stolen lands” with the hashtag #decolonize. Salloum’s text fragments are straightforward and represent ongoing social tensions.

Viewers can also appreciate the works of Cantonese visual artist Florence Yee, whose work in the exhibition focuses on Cantonese-Canadian history. Yee’s work also examines queerness, racialization, and language. Whitewashed, vinyl on plastic bag (2018) is an installation consisting of a white garment bag hung on a clothing rack with “they said I was whitewashed, but Chinese people only run dry cleaners” written on it.

In their statement, Yee describes their practice as beginning with researching historical references to Cantonese-Canadian history, and now having “moved into a more intimate, more self-doubtful examination of diasporic family respectability from a queer lens.” Using “textile installation to question the stoicism of assimilationist imperatives, by holding space for personal and intergenerational failure and cultural loss.”

As HEAR US NOW! has come to an end, EAHR has selected seven of the 20 artists to take part in a collection of new media projects with ISEA’s theme this year “Why Sentience.” This is in reference to various events that have been happening this year, such as wildfires bursting on the planet, systemic racism, and more contemporary issues.

You can check out HEAR US NOW! exhibition through the hashtag #EAHR_ISEAC2020 on Instagram and the archive on the group’s website



Photographs courtesy of EAHR, Jayce Salloum and Florence Yee.

Feature graphic by Lily Cowper.


Emotion, representation and identity

Painting is a medium with a complex yet polarizing history; how does one contemporize it? Le Salon, an exhibition featuring works by Gabriela Avila-Yiptong and Florence Yee, focuses on the medium of painting in history and within the contemporary world.

Many of the works in Le Salon feature landscapes—a subject matter very prominent throughout the history of painting, specifically in Canada. This was popularized through the works of the Group of Seven, a group of artists who were very successful across the nation for their paintings of the untouched Canadian landscape and wilderness.

Thought to be distinctive of Canadian art, the genre of landscape painting brought up many contemporary concerns and critiques. Most prominently, there are serious issues of representation, national identity and exclusion in defining a nation’s artistic identity based on the paintings of the Group of Seven, which was exclusively made up of white male artists. Other issues arise in the depiction of bare landscapes, with no human or industrial presence. This often ignores the presence of Indigenous peoples and communities on the land.

Yee, a recent Concordia fine arts graduate, is now attending Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) for her master’s in interdisciplinary art, media and design. Her work, which has been displayed around Montreal and at Concordia, focuses on themes of diaspora within her identity, issues of representation, the colonialist and patriarchal history of the art world and art canon.

Finding Myself at the MMFA III depicts Yee standing in front of landscape paintings, with her figure blending into the artwork.
Photo by Mackenzie Lad.
Finding Myself at the MMFA IV depicts Yee standing in front of landscape paintings, with her figure blending into the artwork.







Yee’s pieces in Le Salon include Finding Myself at the MMFA III and IV. These self portraits were completed with oil paint and depict Yee standing in front of landscape paintings, with a projection of the painting covering her figure. Quite literally, Yee paints herself into these historically celebrated works.

Another work by Yee, Oh Canada, consists of embroidered yarn on canvas and recreates a Group of Seven landscape through the patterns of threading. Displayed in a glass case, the viewer can see the back side of the piece and further discover the detailing of a red flag, with the design of the U.K.’s flag in the upper left corner. This ensign on the back of the landscape can be considered as a way to remind viewers of the colonial presence across Canada’s lands, along with the patriarchal nature of the history of landscape painting.

Avila-Yiptong‘s works in Le Salon focus primarily on landscape. Florida Motel and I Could Die Here display idyllic landscapes in soft shades, featuring details of the sea and rainbows. The images are realistic yet dreamlike, as if they are a fantasy.

Through these works, contrasting with Yee’s focus on identity and ethnicity, Avila-Yiptong aims to remove the narrative and influence of culture and race, according to the artist statement on her website. Instead, she focuses on personal and emotional relationships with nature, through featuring places she has visited, and mixing styles of realism and abstraction.

This in itself also addresses the patriarchal nature of painting, by representing resistance against normative ways of viewing art and artists; white male artists do not have to fight for representation or opportunity within the medium, while women and artists of colour often do, historically and in today’s art world. By removing the focus on identity and race, and looking at the emotional relationship to landscape, Avila-Yiptong reclaims painting from these normative structures.

Avila-Yiptong’s work focuses on places she has visited, mixing styles of realism and abstraction.
Photo by Mackenzie Lad.
Avila-Yiptong’s work focuses on places she has visited, mixing styles of realism and abstraction.
Photo by Mackenzie Lad.

Early in their respective practices, both artists discovered an interest in painting and the subject of landscape, but experienced racialized discussions and reactions to their work, as discussed in “Keeping Painting Contemporary: Inserting New Perspectives in an “Old” Medium,” a gallery text by Ariane Fairlie. The significance of painting and the landscape depictions within Canada are very much promoted through university art classes, which adds to their relationship with painting. These aspects of personal experience and representation through academia influence the artists’s respective work. A conversation emerges from the way the artists react, reclaim and find influence from these experiences and historical representations.

While both Yee and Avila-Yiptong look at different themes within their respective works, both question and explore the presence of painting within a contemporary context. Both artists are concerned with how the history of the medium and the subject of landscape can be contested. They are spaces that require much consideration, critique and change.

Le Salon is showing at Articule until Oct. 14. The gallery is open Wednesday to Friday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. and from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.


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