Kev Liang: Just add oil; I feel cold.
SNAP – Society of Northern Alberta Print-Artists
Kev Liang: Just add oil; I feel cold.
October 1 – November 5, 2022
Opening Reception: October 1st, 7-9pm.
Closing Reception & Performance: November 4th, 7-9pm.
SNAP – Society of Northern Alberta Print-Artists, Edmonton
View current and upcoming exhibitions at SNAP
I don’t remember much from my childhood; I remember when the kitchen was filled with smoke from the frying wok and it was unbearably hot during busy summer dinner rushes. My father would push through in anger, frustration, and pain. With a life-altering leg disability, my mother would dash in and out of the kitchen in the heat serving sizzling and boiling dishes of black pepper beef and wonton soup, never an empty hand. While I didn’t understand the full scope of things, I knew that growing up and living inside a small-town Chinese restaurant and being in school around kids who had large extended families in oil and agriculture, there was something abnormal about us. My parents have referred to their type of labor as “poor” labor that they have to suffer through and as a sacrifice in order for me to have the so-called “prosperous” life that they never know. It has become my reminder of our ever-industrializing world and the immense pressure to keep up with it and “succeed”. I often experience extreme guilt that reminds me of their back-breaking work and all of the pain that they, and inevitably myself, endure at this price.
I also remember when we would leave the small town for our errands trip to Calgary and being absolutely gobsmacked by some of the structures in the prairies and then in the urban environment. From monumental metallic and concrete grain processing facilities to glistening and reflective window panels of skyscrapers that seem to be limitless, these aesthetics of our fast-paced, contemporary, and anthropocentric time is something that I’ve always been incredibly fascinated by. It has become a reflection of those anxieties within me, relating to achieving a successful and prosperous life as I am seeing the endless capitalistic ideals I am faced with. I often daydream about these environments when I dwell on existential fears of being minuscule and insignificant.
Polyethylene blue tarps have become a material that reflects my cold and existential crisis of our laborious reality; in contrast, it can also be something more warm and tender. This object contains multitudes, as something used as a way of establishing space and creating community or kinship, as well as on an industrial level. The polyethylene materiality has an intrinsically industrial quality that reflects ideas like “oil country” and, of course, my anxieties behind the idea of living through the anthropocene, and late stage capitalism. How can I ever find a sense of self and settlement, a sense of kinship or “family”, whilst also searching for a sense of “success” or “prosperity”? In our overwhelming, robust, and systemic wealth-oriented society, how will we find the time to resist and take care? How I am coping with the ways that I am feeling through incessant search for kinship, companionship, simulation, and digestion of my own sense of place and identity as an artist and a diasporic queer individual?
This exhibition reconciles my anxieties and thoughts that are in conflict. It showcases that in order to feel fulfillment and coping of my generational trauma experiences, I will always have to just keep pushing, just keep working, just keep digesting, and just add oil. The short, ephemeral, and tender moments of kin can periodically add warmth, but I will always feel cold. Through mimetic displays of work ethic, in mirroring that of my blood family, Just add oil; I feel cold is a testament to my continual growth and strength in the face of generational divide and adversity.
About the Artist
Kev Liang is a multidisciplinary artist based in Edmonton, Alberta where he graduated with his BFA in Intermedia and Printmaking from the University of Alberta in 2021. He has exhibited at the U of A, Latitude 53, SNAP Gallery, the Art Museum at the University of Toronto for the 2021 BMO 1st Art award and has work experience from The Works Festival and Latitude 53. Kev tackles his queer, 2nd-gen Chinese Canadian identity and its existential anxieties related to lineage and prosperity. He has recently finished SNAP Gallery’s Emerging Artist residency, with his solo exhibition opening on October 1st.
The Society of Northern Alberta Print-artists (SNAP) is a not-for-profit, artist-run centre, and a registered charity incorporated under the Societies Act of Alberta. SNAP is one of Edmonton’s most unique and exciting visual arts organizations with a robust programming schedule, dedicated membership program, active printmaking studio, and the drive to be an important community resource.
Land Acknowledgement: Treaty 6 territory, amiskwaciwâskahikan.
Accessibility: SNAP is fully accessible. For more information, visit here.
Sponsor acknowledgement: Edmonton Arts Council
1) Pictured are multiple bright yellow 3D printed tiles as well as a dark blue larger tile, put together in a grid formation on the left area of the composition. These 3D printed objects are laid on top of a large, wrinkled, and slightly reflective blue tarp that is used as a backdrop. Everything is seen at bird’s eye view.
2) Pictured is Kev, a Chinese-Canadian male with short and faded black hair as well as black goatee-like facial hair. He is wearing a dark blue T-shirt with a silver necklace and he is standing while leaning forward into his tattooed left arm that’s holding onto a chair (chair not pictured). Behind Kev is a previous artwork of his that consists of white Chinese design motifs printed onto the perimeters of a blue tarp, stretched onto a square canvas.