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Bernadette Phan: Lili and the Migratory Influences

Bernadette Phan

February 10-March 22, 2015
Bob Prittie Library

Born and raised in Vietnam, Bernadette Phan (1966 - ) is a graduate from Montreal’s Concordia University (BFA Studio Arts) and Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia (MFA Printmaking). Phan has exhibited works at Kelowna Art Gallery, Centre A, Equinox Gallery and most recently an edification at Galerie du Tableau in Marseille, France. In this offsite exhibition, Phan exhibits over 150 individual drawings representing books brought back from Paris that once belonged to her late Aunt Lili (1938-2008). The series serves as an homage and a "portrait" around her aunt.

"The ongoing series convey visual and imaginary correspondences around 'Lili.' Lili refers to the multivalent meanings she encompasses: diaspora, migration, hybridity, intra-cultural realities, survival, a witness of historical and social changes. Her elegy has more to do with bringing forth the various cultural and social influences that one lives with on a daily basis, than her own individual. My intention with this ongoing project is to draw a parallel of different facets between this personal and inspiring subject and the transitions of the creative process. The books are my point of entry and immediate connection that I could draw from when I started the series; just over two years ago.

Here I use drawing to address this elegy to my aunt. The challenge in depicting Lili is the reserve that she lived by; this notion is hard to represent and my intention is to touch upon it through indirect means peripheral to her person: books as still life. Still life is overlooked because of its quietness. It is a form of record that transcends genres and media and yet expresses our human, social and cultural nature (Norman Bryson). My particular attachment to this approach of looking is, in a sense, a historical and distanced observation yet a material access to knowledge and how objects were made and studied. Still life also brings forth the memory objects hold and the meaning invested in them, intimate and public.

Lili and the Migratory Influences was exhibited in a two person show with sculptor Jack Jeffrey in September 2013 in Marseille and Vienna. The augmented version was shown at CSA this past spring. The drawings as an installation continues to grow and make other connections, with my own library and "present readings. As the library unfolds different correspondences or constellations appear and continue to motivate my exploration and recording in the representational and somewhat theatrical outlook of things past." - Bernadette Phan.