Photo Credit: Manpreet Singh
Yong Fei Guan
What does it mean to you to be an artist working in Edmonton?
For the past five years since I became a mother, my art has addressed the notion of my identity and my relationship to Edmonton. I also question the concept of “other” and “home”. Some people say that immigrants should go back to their homeland. Do we not belong? How long does one need to be here to be considered part of the local community? For thousands of years humanity has migrated to different places. For me, Edmonton is home. I hope people can relate to my work and bring each of us a bit closer to home.
What is the Edmonton art scene to you?
Edmonton has a welcoming art community. It seems everyone knows each other and supports each other. Also, there are many organizations to help artists find the resources that they need. My favourite organization is the Edmonton Arts Council who financially supports artists on a regular basis. Despite that Edmontonians have different political views, we look after each other. Perhaps because we have a brutal five-month long winter, we know that we need each other to survive. Like many other immigrants that settle down in Edmonton, it is important for me to build a home here for my family.
Yong Fei Guan, 塑胶狮 Sujiao Shi, 2018. Household plastic waste, PVC pipe, screws, nails and wood. Courtesy of the Artist. Installation view of The Scene. Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton, 2021. Photo: Art Gallery of Alberta.
Originally from Foshan in Guangdong Province, China, Yong Fei Guan moved to Edmonton after studying at Emily Carr University of Art + Design. Her practice often involves public and community-based art projects that bring people together around topics of home and the environment. This pair of sculptures were made in a response to two recent events: On April 4, 2017, the city of Edmonton removed the two Chinese guardian lions that flanked the Harbin Gate, the ceremonial gateway to Chinatown named after Edmonton’s Chinese sister city. In January of the following year, China announced that it would no longer accept most plastic recyclables from around the world. Made entirely from household plastic waste, Guan’s lions memorialize the displacement of a local monument while speaking to the global waste crisis.