At the corner of 118th Avenue and 91st Street, seven figures sit in a circle, distinguishable by their red colour, squatting low with their hands cupped. Across the road from them is an eighth in a similar pose; he is the outlier, sitting and watching.
The figures are part of a series of artwork displayed on Alberta Avenue, in partnership with Vancouver Biennale. The open-air art museum is an innovative concept, in line with Vancouver Biennale’s beliefs that art should be completely accessible to the public. The alliance between Vancouver Biennale and Arts on the Ave is part of an ongoing endeavour to turn the neighbourhood into Edmonton’s art district.
The art piece, appropriately named The Meeting, was created by Chinese contemporary artist Wang Shugang, who states he is translocating Chinese reality to Canada. Known as the pioneer of China’s politically charged cynical realism, Shugang, as stated in the press release, “playfully and astutely mocks the history and political events of the cultural revolution and Maoist China.”
Shugang is well known for painting his pieces solid in either red, black, white, or bronze; the red — commonly known as Chinese red — is often associated with the Chinese government and communism.
To celebrate the opening, Arts on the Ave had a community painting session to colour the sculptures that “very bright, very shining, China red,” says Christy Morin, executive director of Arts on the Ave.
“I think it’s going to really create interest and positive connectivity. This is an inclusionary piece, letting people know that we’re in it. We’re all here together.”
One community member is excited to see the sculptures.
“This is the symbol of togetherness,” says Wai-Ling Lennon, a member of the Edmonton Arts Collective. “If we come together in a circle and work together and support each other, we have a stronger, happier community.”