The AGO X RBC Emerging Artists Exchange is an initiative providing three emerging artists with a paid four-week digital mentorship to pursue a research project. With the support of mentors from across the gallery, each artist furthers their work with the aim of presenting their findings to the various teams at the AGO.
Wenting will research the AGO’s Chinese snuff bottle collection, part of the Thomson Collection of European Art. Originally a status symbol in 18th-century Chinese courts, these objects of intricate and meticulous craft have become a commodity for predominantly foreign collectors in the 20th and 21st centuries. How did Thomson – and other Western collectors – come to collect and commodify these objects? What place do their collections occupy in the context of colonialism, and within Chinese diaspora? How do the interests of Thomson, a single collector, continue to shape the mandate of the AGO today, and influence local perceptions of Chinese art? And: as the snuff bottle moves through history, what has moved with it? What can a snuff bottle hold today?
Wenting Li, The Hope in Chinatown, 2021.
Portrait credit: Kristina Luu
Wenting Li is an artist and illustrator working in Tkaronto/ Toronto. Wenting seeks to visualize the ephemeral space where fantasy and myth intersect and extend our human experiences − migration, interconnection, everyday routines. Interested in places between, and the transposition of meaning and identities, her work tells new stories by way of drawing and painting, ceramics, murals and illustration.
Gwenyth Chao’s project will research the decision-making processes of acquisitions, the precedents of preservation and the conservation challenges of non-archival work. Through interviews, Chao will chart how these precedents have developed over time through the AGO’s change in priorities and research how biomaterials could disrupt these museum fields. In her practice, Chao’s transfigurations traverse and disrupt the value systems embedded in the scientific, culinary, agronomic, design and artistic spheres: what other ways exist for us to know and value both (food) waste and art as commodities? Her work’s inherent decomposition challenges the colonial tradition of galleries which construct cultural knowledge through preservation and collection. By investigating the pathways of food at the AGO, Chao will experiment with artworks that biodegrade in the AGO’s surrounding gardens or planters. Subverting the conventional in-and-out movement of artwork, how can this intervention transform these same “waste” materials into micronutrients for the soilways post-exhibition?
Gwenyth Chao, Plasticity, 2019-21. An index of 5,6,7 (written to emphasize ongoing accumulation) single-use plastic containers casted with a bioplastic made of tapioca starch, water, glycerin, and vinegar. Photo: Scott Lee
Photo by Jenny Liu
Gwenyth Chao (she/her) is an artist born in Tkaronto/Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She completed her BA in Studio Art at the University of Guelph (’17) and is currently an MFA candidate at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design. Her research praxis asks: how can art be a portal to potential futures that offer alternate ways of knowing through material engagements? Chao’s experimental art practice explores how transdisciplinary processes can generate new ways of knowing.
Anahí will explore artworks in the AGO's Latin American contemporary collection which depict human labour. This project is the continuation of her research about labour representation in visual arts and her artistic contribution to the relationship between Latin America and Canada. She wants her findings to provoke reflections on the power systems that create labour inequalities in Latin America, and to highlight the importance of Latin American collections in Canadian art institutions.
Anahí González, Exportaciones from the series Vecino(s), 2020. Inkjet print, 101.6 x 152.4 cm.
Anahí González is a Mexican photographer based in London, Ontario, Canada. She explores alternative visual narratives related to Mexican migrants and Mexican labour in Canada. She holds a BA in Communication from the Universidad del Valle de México and an MFA from Western University. She is currently an Art and Visual Culture PhD candidate at Western University.