Shellie Zhang examines how societies learn, sustain, and transform culture through objects and iconographies. In Offerings to Both Past and Future, vibrant arrangements of artificial and edible fruits and vegetables are displayed in bowls from the artist’s collection of family heirlooms. This series uses visual cues from still life painting, advertising, produce displays in restaurants and grocery stores, and the Chinese tradition of gifting fruits at celebrations, temples, and shrines. The textures and types of foods, paired with symbolic textile backdrops, reference the comforts of home, instilling a sense of belonging for those living within China and members of the Chinese diaspora who live outside of its borders. The everyday produce and wares are majestically elevated, becoming like precious jewels.
Zhang’s pedestals of produce call attention to the routine of giving, an intimate gesture that nourishes the mind, spirit, and health of the receiver. It is an act of care, affection, gratitude, and labour. From farm to table, this labour is often directly tied to migrant work that includes the harvesting, transport, and selling of local and international foods. For those unfamiliar with these specific traditions and labour, stigmas may be projected onto the cultures that share these values. In this way, this series is a powerful representation of the ongoing experiences of diasporic communities, their struggles with oppression, and their rich, evolving traditions of generosity and remembrance. Zhang elevates and makes visible these intersecting experiences. Each image becomes an offering and a tribute to honour, and in the artist’s words, the series “sustain[s] the collective memory of those in the afterlife and those in the present.”
The Waterfront Station public art project is generously supported by MLT Aikins LLP
Presented in partnership with Canada Line Public Art Program – InTransit BC
The Artist would like to acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts