Asian Heritage Month

By: The Hon. Patricia Bovey

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Inside the National Gallery of Canada

Hon. Patricia Bovey: Honourable senators, I rise with gratitude to Asian Canadians and immigrants. The positive impacts of their cultural heritages on Canada and global understandings are significant. Rich, centuries-old Asian cultures weave through Canadian society, past and present. Artistic expression, at the core of all Asian cultures, is embodied within bronzes, ceramics, textiles, calligraphy, scroll paintings and leading-edge contemporary two- and three-dimensional art. Inspirational Asian artworks from the 3rd century BC forward are in the Royal Ontario Museum and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. Pieces from each gallery have been featured in national and international exhibitions and publications over decades.

Asian art has long inspired Canadian artists. Asian-born Canadian artists have expressed their dual heritages. Immigrant artists from Asia have unquestionably added to Canada’s cultural fabric.

In 1972, Victoria artist Pat Martin Bates, originally from New Brunswick, received a $5,000 Canada Council for the Arts grant to travel the route of Alexander the Great. Persian miniatures, manuscripts, architecture, gardens and artists inspired her pierced, painted and printed light boxes exploring cultures and linkages between global religions. She has spearheaded artist exchanges from Japan, China and India.

Canadian-born on Vancouver Island, Takao Tanabe is a Canadian art star of Japanese ancestry and a recipient of the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts. This internationally acclaimed artist, alas, lived the dark side of Canada during the World War II when he and his family were sent to a Canadian internment camp. However, his stellar teaching and painting careers and his large-scale landscapes and abstractions convey a unique sensibility of light and space.

Immigrant artists come from all parts of Asia. Aliana Au, who first trained in her native Guangdong, came to study at the Winnipeg School of Art in 1974. Her work transits both traditions, evoking deep insights into cultural interactions.

Artist Gu Xiong, now an acclaimed University of British Columbia fine arts professor, was in Tiananmen Square that fateful day of the 1989 massacre. He came to Vancouver soon after and has exhibited across Canada.

Jin-me Yoon, Senator Martin’s friend, immigrated from Korea. She celebrated the 1971 Canadian Multiculturalism Policy in her art, the act that enabled her family to immigrate. Her contributions to art and teaching are consistently celebrated.

Living in British Columbia, prominent painter Tad Suzuki’s recent Toronto solo exhibition was truly successful.

Colleagues, three minutes is too short a time to give even a tiny sense of artists’ insights, traditions and creativity from all across Asia. But close to home, let’s look at our own Senator Ataullahjan’s colour-filled, inspirational paintings.

This Asian Heritage Month, I herald the passion, dedication and creative integrity of all Asian artists. Canada is richer for it.

Thank you.

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