Karen Tam’s exhibition Autumn Tigers is an immensely important conversation that reflects on the history of Chinese culture in Canada, and specifically in British Columbia.
The show at the Campbell river Art Gallery honours intercultural exchange and the labour, and life of Chinese-Canadians who have thrived even under the pressures of systemic racism, violence, and discrimination. Tam’s work often unearths stories that have previously been invisible, inspiring artworks born from historical research. The exhibition runs from May 22 to July 17, 2021, in the Main Gallery.
Tam’s beautiful artworks are full of powerful symbols of advocacy and references to lives lived, featuring an impressive range of media and emotion: from a multi-wall, honeycomb installation of cyanotypes that traces technology, history and culture across the Silk Road, to an homage to C.D. Hoy’s early 20th Century photography studio in Quesnel, B.C. The exhibition is made all the richer with the inclusion of historical objects and photographs generously loaned from the Nanaimo Museum, the Sidney Museum, and the Cumberland Museum and Archives.
Tommy Joseph, Tlingit wood carver, has also contributed two pieces of his replica Tlingit slat and coin armour to the exhibition. A Sitka-based carver of the Eagle Moiety, Kaagwaantaan, Joseph has been engaged in Northwest Coast carving since the 1980s.
Displaying his work in relation to Tam’s suit of coin armour honours the intercultural dimensions of maritime trade between colonial explorers and the Tlingit Nation, and investigates the presence of Chinese coins in historical and archaeological findings of the Pacific Northwest.
In conjunction with Autumn Tigers, the CRAG has developed a diverse range of public programs to deepen the visitor’s understanding of recent and historical anti-Asian racism, and how we can respond as individuals and as a community. Exhibition programming includes the launch of the CRAG’s new film club, an online panel discussion with the artist that delves deeper into the relationship between Indigneous and Chinese cultures on the West Coast, the Art Rocks collaboration between the CRAG and the Welcoming Communities Coalition that provides participants kits for painting and placing ‘hope’ rocks around Campbell River, and the popular Super Saturday take-home kits for kids and families.