Shortly after the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, renowned artist Gu Xiong found himself in Canada, observing salmon in the Fraser River. The seeds of his exhibit “The River Migration” were sewn.
“I found myself engulfed by a different culture, like the salmon forced to adapt to changes in water salinity,” said Xiong, shown right. “We both learned to survive and thrive.”
“The River Migration,” a mixed medium exhibit, see above, opens at the San Juan Islands Museum of Art atrium, Aug. 6 and runs through Nov. 28. Xiong will also be speaking at the San Juan Community Theatre on Aug. 3, at 7:30 p.m. as part of SJIMA’s Art as Voice series. Tickets to Art as Voice are $15 for non-IMA members, $12 for members and $8 for students. Tickets are available online at www.sjima.com.
Xiong’s story begins in Chongqing, Sichuan, China, where he was born in 1953. During the Cultural Revolution, Xiong, along with millions of other urban children, was sent school in the vast countryside.
Among learning and labor, Xiong honed his art. He leapt on an opportunity to go to Canada in 1986 as an artist residency at Banff Center of the Arts in Alberta. run-on, please reword: While Xiong enjoyed his time in Canada, he returned to home and participated in China’s Avant-Guarde exhibition, a privately funded multi medium show in 1989, which was shut down by the government within hours of its opening. Xiong returned home three years later, and participated in China’s Avant-Garde exhibition. This was a privately funded multi-medium show in 1989. Tensions were already boiling that year, in China, between the government and the youth. The show was shut down by the government within hours of its opening. Protests by students demanding democratic and other reforms erupted June 4, 1989. The exhibit shutdown in what has become known as the Tiananmen Square Protest or, Tiananmen Square massacre. Reports show an unknown amount of people were killed during that time. Xiong said the tragedy motivated him to flee China. Since Xiong had already been to Canada, and enjoyed it there, he chose that as his new home. Settling into his new home in B.C. Canada, where Xiong is an art professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, he began exploring the nearby Fraser River. Watching salmon runs, he realized he in many ways was just like the salmon in the way they must adapt and change as their life cycle changes from fresh water to salt water back to fresh water again.
Xiong is currently an art professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, British Columbia. He returns to his native China once a year to visit family and participate in art exhibits, the freedom Xiong has found in Canada, he says “helps my creativity and make my motivations become more clear.”
As a result, his exhibits have been shown in Venice, Montreal, China’s National Museum of Fine art in Beijing and he has done several commission pieces, include one at Safeco Field in Seattle.
“The River Migration” is in part Xiong’s own tale of assimilating and finding a new identity by merging his old culture of China, with the new culture of Canada. Xiong also explores the metaphor of rivers and oceans for globalization and merging cultures.
“In the river of migration, there is not one individual, but many all coming together to become a river; a power, working together to make a change,” Xiong said, confusing, reword please: explaining that while it’s difficult to merge two cultures together, but if people don’t blend together, they will be isolated, and humanity will not move forward.
“It’s important to change, to be open to learn to work to the future. And to do some good things in this world.”
For more info, www.sjima.com.