Vancouver International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art

Shen Yuan


Shen Yuan

Solo Exhibition

Exhibition: April 6 – May 5, 2007
Opening: Friday, April 6, 8pm
Gallery Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 11:00 -18:00
Sunday-Monday closed

Curators: Hank Bull, Makiko Hara
With thanks to Zheng Shengtian
Patrons: Mark Allison & Stephanie Holmquist
Sponsor: Alliance Française de Vancouver, Chinese Cultural Centre, Select Wine

A significant exhibition of contemporary art that brings together the cities of Beijing Paris, Venice, Istanbul, Brussels, San Francisco and Vancouver, featuring the work of leading Chinese-French artist, Shen Yuan.

Shen Yuan was born in Fuzhou, China and became involved in radical avant-garde art movements in Xiamen in the late 1980’s. Together with her partner, Huang Yong Ping, she immigrated to France, and has lived in Paris since 1990. Shen Yuan has held solo and group exhibitions since the early 1990’s in France, Germany, England, Switzerland, Belgium, Japan and China. She has participated in many major international exhibitions including “Cities on The Move “(curated by Hou Hanru and Hans Ulrich Obrist; Vienna, Bordeaux, New York, Denmark, London, Bangkok, and Helsinki, 1997) and Guangzhou Art Triennial, Guangzhou, China, 2005.

Shen Yuan will represent China at this year’s prestigious Venice Biennale, arguably the world’s most important salon of contemporary art. She will fly from her home in Paris to attend the opening of the Vancouver exhibition, her first solo show in North America. The curator of the Chinese pavilion in Venice, Mr. Hou Hanru, will also be in attendance.

The exhibition features four major installation works from the late 1990’s to the present. It is organized in conjunction with her partner’s exhibition “House of Oracles: A Huang Yong Ping Retrospective” organized and circulated by Walker Art Center, and currently at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

The Shen Yuan exhibition is made possible by generous gift from Centre A founding patrons Mark Allison and Stephanie Holmquist. It is presented with the support of  the Alliance Française de Vancouver, the Chinese Cultural Centre and Select Wine. Centre A and Vancouver Art Gallery will co-host a symposium bringing together leading figures from the world of contemporary Chinese art.

Event Schedule (In conjunction with Vancouver Art Gallery)

April 4 (Wednesday);  9:00-11:00at Vancouver Art Galley Press Briefing

April 6 (Friday), 20:00: Shen Yuan exhibition opening

April 7 (Saturday), 11:00-12:00 at Centre A: Gallery talk by Shen Yuan in Chinese (with English interpretation)

14:30-15:30, at Vancouver Art Galley 4th East Galley Panel, Chinese Art on the Move: Beijing Paris, Venice, Istanbul, Brussles, San Francisco, Vancouver” with; Shen Yuen, Huang Yong Ping, Hou Hanru and Evelyne Joanno (followed by Q & A)

15:30-16:30 Evelyn and Hou Hanru’s presentation on the upcoming project for Venice, Istanbul, and Brussels (followed by Q & A)

Work Description

Shen Yuan frequently focuses on everyday objects, examining the metaphorical meanings behind them and conceptually shifting the physical relationships between them. Such a quality is expressed best when she writes; “Art for me is a way of “finding reincarnation in another’s corpse”. To reveal the latent language of things, to make useless things useful and make useful things useless-that is what I wish to do.”

Shen Yuan’s art practice also reflects her personal experience of migration, the struggle of changing languages and culture in her 30’s, with a profound examination of complex gender roles within the new culture where she has located herself. Her works and subjects are also related deeply within childhood memories.

Through our physical engagement with her installation works, we are invited  to make  various interpretations. Sometimes we discover an unexpected transformation of meanings of connecting to our own lives.

The exhibition provide a much-awaited experience of Shen Yuan’s installation in Canada, where many immigrants may share the similar sense of cultural transition.

Featuring Installation Works

“Perdre sa salive”, 1994 (Wasting One’s Spittle), is an early work made few years after her immigration to France. The work consists of tongues made from ice which are attached to columns. As the ice tongues melt away, a knife appears within each one. The process of this unexpected transformation reflects on her personal dilemma of shifting languages and life to adapt to western culture. Yuan explains; “In my installation, the melting ice tongue illustraits how wasting one’s words excessively leads eventually to the loss of language.

Tool Box”, 2001-2007, is a continuous project in which Yuan keeps adding metaphorical objects to her large “tool box”. This works reminds us of early conceptual art practices such as Robert Filliou and Marcel Duchamp. Shen also meticulously addresses gender issues with her choice of objects collected in the box.

Blue Freeway, 2003 shows another direction on her art practice – her  relationship with children and the way this is and interwoven into her own memories. This piece  was made when she visited Kinshasa, Congo, where she led  an art workshop with children. In this underprivileged environment, the children made vehicles out of waste wire, paper and cans, dreaming of ways to get escape from their situation. She brought these toys back home and made a freeway structure to support them. The blue soap coating the freeway structure was her favorite soap when she was a child in China, and by coincidence she found the same product in Kinshasa.

La route Paris- Luxembourg, 2005 is one of her most recent works. It reflects her personal experience of crossing the border between  France and  Luxembourg. She was subjected to a thorough search of her person and car, suspected of being a Chinese woman smuggling a large amount of cash for deposit in the banks of Luxembourg. She felt that this body search was conducted with obvious racism. She made a work in the form of a full car, using fabric with many pockets and zippers as a metaphor of her own body. The car is made in a modular, deconstructed form.


Centre A gratefully acknowledges the generous support of its patrons, sponsors, members, partners, private foundations, and government funding agencies, including the Canada Council for the Arts, the British Columbia Arts Council, and the City of Vancouver through the Office of Cultural Affairs.


For more Information
Contact: Tel: 604-683-8326

For more photos from this exhibition, please go to the Centre A Flickr site