Empty Spaces that Fill My Heart is a photographic diptych connecting Richmond and Vancouver’s Chinatowns. In this work, Chad Wong presents abstracted fragments of the awnings and hallways of the Hong Kong-style cafes and Chinese Canadian malls he grew up visiting. The images contemplate how various modes of representation in architecture and shared cultural spaces shape the narrative and identity of a community.
Wong is a first-generation Canadian whose family immigrated to Richmond from Hong Kong. Since the 1990s, a steady stream of Chinese newcomers has arrived to the Lower Mainland, initially from Hong Kong and now more predominantly from Mainland China. This body of work explores the fading signs and symbols of the Hong Kongese/Cantonese Chinese Canadian cultural urbanscapes of both Richmond and Vancouver. The uniqueness of these malls and restaurants – which have become visible icons in the Lower Mainland – exists in their blend of Eastern and Western influences. These spaces are now slowly disappearing, and the artist views them as a last vestige of his connection to Hong Kong. He felt an urgency to document and preserve these Chinese Canadian sites that are on the precipice of gentrification as demographics shift. Sited at Aberdeen Station, the works occupy a location that is a significant space for Chinese Canadian businesses and cultural manifestation.
Presented in partnership with City of Richmond Public Art and the Canada Line Public Art Program – InTransit BC