Xiaojing Yan
Artist Statement

The Chinese seeds of my art, rooted for fifteen long years in Canadian soil, push their way up through the densely woven layers of my identity as a first-generation Chinese-Canadian. Once these seeds burst through my complex immigrant experience into the fresh air and sunlight of creativity, they transform into a bi-cultural lens for what it’s like to balance between two cultures as I breathe new life into my heritage of 5,000 years of Chinese traditions and rituals.

I start with materials rich in religious, mythological and cultural meaning and then I reinvent them within a contemporary aesthetic. I’m currently focused on how nature, an inherent force within traditional Chinese art, transcends culture.

Aligning the spirit and form of specific natural elements with my evolving identity as a Chinese-Canadian opens up a new range of artistic freedom. From the freshwater pearls that form my piece Spirit Cloud, a large oscillating cloud shape that references Chinese lingzhi mushrooms which are associated with longevity, and the pine needles that I wove through sheets of gauze to depict the famous hazy mountain shapes from historical Chinese landscape painting, to the hundreds of cicada beetles which I dipped in gold to create a dramatic, suspended staircase linking this world and the next—This emerging freedom of imagination has allowed me to transform the existential anxiety and struggle of a bi-cultural identity that previously underpinned my work.

I’m fascinated with the way technological advancement gives humans the illusion of power over nature. Now I’m playing with a range of collaborations between the human element and the natural element by designing a controlled, human environment that, over time, gives way to an organic process. For me it’s important that each side of this equation has a chance to shine.

Throughout my practice, I never know where a material or method will lead me. Each project is steeped in experimentation with forms, textures and materials. After a concept takes hold, the action plan may begin with the installation space, the subject matter, or a personal element from my interior world.

Along the way, new ideas and forms spontaneously announce themselves, which deepens the mystery of an artistic process that is at once under and beyond my control. This makes me endlessly curious about how far I can go in aligning my human control with nature’s organic serendipity by focusing on “yi hua jie mu” 移花接木, the process of “stealthily grafting one twig onto another” until each encounter with the natural world reveals my contemporary, personal mythology of art’s transformative spirit.

Artist Bio

Xiaojing Yan is a Chinese-Canadian artist whose work embraces her sense of having a hybrid identity. Combining her Chinese roots and education at Nanjing Arts Institute (B.F.A., 2000) with higher education at George Brown College in Toronto (2004) and an M.F.A. in sculpture at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (2007,) settling permanently in the Toronto area, her work reflects her journey through these various cultures, arriving at her own personal vocabulary. Her unique point of view brings together the past and the present, encompasses culture and nature, art and science.

Yan is a recipient of numerous awards and grants, including the 2014 Outstanding Young Alumni Award from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Project Grants from the Canadian Council for the Arts, the Chalmers Arts Fellowship, Mid-career Grants from Ontario Arts Council, and a 2018 OAAG Exhibition Installation and Design Award and many more.

Most recently, she has had solo shows at Maison Hermès, Shanghai, China, Art Gallery of Northumberland, Cobourg, ON, Canada, Richmond Art Gallery, Richmond, BC, Canada and Suzhou Museum, Suzhou, China, Varley Art Gallery, Markham, ON, Canada. Yan has also completed public art projects and commissions in Canada and China including her 2018 installation Cloudscape at the Royal Ontario Museum and 2019 Window display Into the Dream for Maison Hermès.

Artist Web Site
Exhibition History at Gallery 456
2021Pines, Needles, Mushrooms, Ink, Paint: A Botanical Rhapsody