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Aurora, 1975, cotton and nylon thread, 102 x 305 x 25 cm, photo: Cheryl O'Brien


Silk, 2008, silk thread, nail   110 x 38 x 3 cm, photo: Cheryl O'Brien


Artist: Kai Chan, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Interview 39

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Interviews published by Gareth Bate & Dawne Rudman.



Kai Chan was born in China in 1940 and immigrated to Canada in 1966, having graduated with a degree in biology in 1963. He has received numerous grants and awards including the 1998 Jean A. Chalmers National Crafts Award and in 2002, the Saidye Bronfman Award for Excellence in the Fine Crafts. In 2003, and again in January 2010, Chan was awarded the Canada Council's Paris studio residency. The artist has exhibited in solo and group exhibitions across Canada, the United States, Japan, Australia and Europe, and is represented in the collections of the Canadian Museum of Civilization (Gatineau, Quebec), Museum London (London, Ontario), the Mendel Art Gallery (Saskatoon, SK); the Canada Council Art Bank (Ottawa, Ontario), the Library & Gallery (Cambridge, Ontario), and Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimusem in Norway. Chan maintains his studio in Toronto, Canada. Kai's Website


Artist Kai Chan.


Tell us about your work?

My work is textile based. They are 3-dimensional and most of them are hung on the wall. They could be site-specific installations to very small-scale objects.


Red Flood, 2009, 118 x 128 x 3 cm, cotton thread, tin foil, photo: Cheryl O'Brien

Deep Breathing, 2009, 141 x 33 x 9 cm, stainless steel, silk thread, silk organza, cotton cloth, photo: Cheryl O'Brien


From where do you get your inspiration?

Everyday life.


Link, 2009-2010, silk thread  213 x 432 x 5 cm, photo: Cheryl O'Brien


Why did you choose to go into fibre art?

It chose me.


Marilyn, 2010, 178 x 398 x 2 cm, cotton thread, photo: Cheryl O'Brien


Which is your favourite fibre medium?



Mirage, 2008, 178 x 229 [variable] x 2 cm, silk thread, nail, photo: Cheryl O'Brien


What other mediums do you work in, and how does this inform your fibre work?

Cloth, wood, paper, buttons, glass, toothpicks, lawn grass, cinnamon sticks, garlic stems, glass beads, paint and ink. All the materials I have chosen are related to the concept of the work; each material carries its own character, or history which would become the heart of the work.


Silk, 2008, silk thread, nail   110 x 38 x 3 cm, photo: Cheryl O'Brien


What specific historic artists have influenced your work? 

The 1969 exhibition, "Wall Hangings" in the Museum of Modern Art, New York, opened the door to me for textile as an art form. I look into all artwork, historical or contemporary, East or West for information on art making.


Two Islands in the River, 2010, Silk thread 234 x 333 x 5 cm, photo: Cheryl O'Brien


What specific contemporary artists have influenced your work? 

Sol LeWitt (born 1928 in Hartford, Connecticut - died April 2007) is a conceptual artist and painter. He gave me the freedom to make work that could be remade with instructions.

Sheila Hicks, American based in Paris, textile artist – Her sense of structure, colour and presentation have set a standard for me.


Black White and Red, detail, Site specific installation at the Durham Art Gallery, Durham, Ontario, Chinese ink, silk thread, nail, 10 ft x 35 ft, photo: Michael Tweed

Black White and Red, detail, photo: Michael Tweed


What other fibre artists are you interested in?

Anne Wilson, Chicago – She is always moving up the ladder in the field.
Sandra Brownlee, Halifax – Her passion and dedication in textile is exemplary.


An installation of Mirage at Musee D'art De Joliette, Joliette, Québec, May 2011

Family Moon, 1997, 164 x 332 x 6 cm, buttons collected from St. Hyacinthe, Quebec, nails, photo: Cheryl O'Brien


Tell us about your studio and how you work:

My home is my studio, I work in the basement of my house. When I have some idea I go down to the basement and play. Sometimes the idea works, most of the time not, but would suggest something else, which may lead to another solution.


Seeing the Buddha, 2004, 246 x 66 x 104 cm, Twigs (dogwood, maple, almond, rose, lilac, sand cherry, wisteria, forsythia, peach, birch), bamboo, found wood, glass wine bottles, toothpicks, gesso, photo: Cheryl O'Brien


What role do you think fibre art plays in contemporary art?

Fibre art is gradually coming out from the craft closet. Many fine artists are using this medium in their work.


What It Is I Came for, I Turn and Turn, Part VI, 2004, 244 x 915 x 36 cm, sticks of incense, photo: Cheryl O'Brien

What I came for, I turn and turn, Part IV, 2004, detail, photo: Cheryl O'Brien


Where do you imagine your work in five years? 

No idea.


Rainbow Legs, 104 x 55 x 4 cm, toothpick, water colour, cotton thread and nail, photo: Cheryl O'Brien


Is there anything about you or your work that you would like to tell us about?

My artwork is the source in living my life. Because I am making art, I make myself a better person.


Mountains and Waters, 2001, 177 x 93 x 45 cm, bamboo, dogwood, found wood, oil paint, photo: Cheryl O'Brien


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Interviews published by Gareth Bate & Dawne Rudman.