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Beacons by Shellie Zhang
December 17, 2022 - February 20, 2023
For thousands of years, humans have gathered around sources of light for moments of pause, ritual, and protection; as well as the collective sharing of food, knowledge, and stories. Under the sun’s cycle of rejuvenation, we’ve formed notions of time, rest, and growth. Eventually, the power of light was harnessed to direct us and instill hope. Stars guide us in navigation, lighthouses draw travelers towards their destination, and lanterns shed light on the unfamiliar.
Beacons consists of five sculptural pillars of light and a constellation of public programs around them. In Zhang’s conversations with newcomer friends and The Bentway community, and in recalling her own experience of moving to Canada, first winters were characterized by the cold and long periods of darkness, but also by the warmth of welcome and communal solidarity. Inspired by these experiences, Zhang’s Beacons is a set of glowing gradient beams scattered throughout The Bentway Skate Trail, drawing audiences’ eyes up the bents and transforming these concrete blocks into mesmerizing and welcoming signals. The colours of the sculptures and projected lights are inspired by the dusk and dawn of the city’s skyline, a reminder of the passage of time, and the warmth of gatherings during the cold winter months. Beacons illuminates The Bentway’s role as a public gathering space that offers audiences a moment of reflection, enchantment, and joy but also reminds us of the ongoing momentum needed to keep our collective light aglow.
This year, The Bentway’s winter season celebrates the diverse communities that make up Toronto and explores what it is to experience winter in our city for the first time. Learn more about our special “First Winter” programming.
About the Artist
Shellie Zhang 张雪莱(b. 1991, Beijing, China) is a multidisciplinary artist based in Tkaronto/Toronto, Canada. By uniting both past and present iconography with the techniques of mass communication, language and sign, Zhang explores the contexts and construction of a multicultural society by disassembling approaches to tradition, gender, history, migration, and popular culture. She creates images, objects, and projects in a wide range of media to explore how integration, diversity, and assimilation are implemented and negotiated, and how manifestations of these ideas relate to lived experiences. Zhang is interested in how culture is learned and sustained, and how the objects and iconographies of culture are remembered and preserved.
Zhang has exhibited at venues including WORKJAM (Beijing), Asian Art Initiative (Philadelphia) and Gallery 44 (Toronto). She is a recipient of grants such as the Toronto Arts Council’s Visual Projects grant, the Ontario Arts Council’s Visual Artists Creation Grant and the Canada Council’s Project Grant to Visual Artists. She is a member of EMILIA-AMALIA, an intergenerational feminist reading and writing group, and Long Time No See, a collective of artists, filmmakers, and educators in Toronto’s Chinatown. In 2017, She was an Artist-in-Residence at the Art Gallery of Ontario. In 2021, she was a recipient of the Toronto Friends of the Visual Arts Artist Award. Her work has been published in Canadian Art, the Toronto Star, Blackflash Magazine, CBC Arts, and C Magazine. Recent and upcoming projects include exhibitions at Mercer Union (Toronto), Capture Photography Festival (Vancouver) the Institute of Contemporary Art San Diego. Zhang works with Patel Brown Gallery.
Visit shelliezhang.com for more.