The Spectacle of the Walls

My relationship with the notion of the East is hypothetical, consumerist, and derivative. I am a second-generation Chinese-Canadian with no firsthand experience of China.  Much of what I am surrounded by has been made and shipped from overseas.  Images that are conveyed via film, media and art inform my understanding of Asian lifestyles and landscapes.  Likewise, Chinoiserie motifs are an appropriation of the romanticized Oriental into a palatable format more easily digested by Westernized ideals.

My practice centres on the principle of disrupting the “Society of Spectacle,” a term coined by Guy Debord, who appropriated existing images and reworked these in acts of détournement, inverting the commodities of art into interaction and critical engagement.  In Spectacle of the Walls, and several of my past works, I combine common and traditional décor motifs with contemporary and anachronistic content.  For the window space of the Comox Valley Art Gallery, I have created three wallpaper-like scrolls based on traditional Chinoiserie design. Each scroll is composed from a series of registrations, painted or drawn by hand before being digitized, pieced, layered and printed as a repeating pattern.

In the ‘blue’ wallpaper panel, the repeated motifs dissolve heavenward into pixels – a vision of China as an immutable Superpower in the Digital Age.  In the ‘yellow’ wallpaper panel, the pattern brings in the goddess, a fantastical self-portrait, floating in sun-gold ether, juxtaposed against commercialized shrines and pagodas, construction and pollution.  The grayscale wallpaper panel serves as an abrupt shift, examining our consumeristic dependency on the import/export dependency. White on white crude assemblages of plaster cast objects are placed in front of the wallpaper panels, extending and reinterpreting the repetitive gestures found in the wallpaper into three dimensional forms.  A cheap toy is transformed into a crumbling plaster repeat; a pagoda-like structure supports the hand of the artist; the fantastical goddess is now blunt and degraded; construction vehicles clamber over the rubble and terrain.

Inside the gallery space, the underlying registration drawings reappear and repeat, undulating along a mapped line of the Great Wall of China.  The Great Wall drawing acts as a spine, the registrations laboriously traced around the form. Here the pattern is represented as a tighter formation, though, by a looser and variable hand, allowing for a more intimate viewer experience of the handmade construction of the pattern.


Janet creates laboriously deconstructed, layered two and three dimensional portraits as a reaction to our digitized world of instantaneous image-making. The construction of identity is studied through the

quotation and reworking of traditional and historical motifs.  A self-portrait assumes historical postures; a gesture is doubled through mirrored reflections; an image is drawn, carved, textured, painted and layered to reinstate depth to the dialogue between representation and receiver.

Janet received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of British Columbia and her Master of Studio Practice from the University of Leeds in England. Her work has been exhibited in Canada, the United States, and the UK, and has been awarded residencies from the Arts Council of England, ArtStarts and the Burnaby Arts Council. The artist has received the Visual Arts Development Award by the Vancouver Foundation and the Don S Williams Grant from the Fund for the Arts North Shore. She is currently is an instructor at the Art Institute of Vancouver.