Thursday, January 20, 2011

Hail-to-the-Old-Made-New, the Tried-and-True, the To-Be-Continued and Yet-to Be-Discovered: Part III

Kai Chan


Kai Chan, born 1940, China.

How can Canada and United States be so close geographically and somehow manage NOT to share their artist treasures internationally?? This post will introduce you, as I was three weeks ago, to Kai Chan, a Toronto-based artist also known for his sculptural jewelry and interior, exhibition and theatre design. His sculptural works utilizing everyday materials are being featured currently in an exhibition at the Textile Museum of Canada. Other exhibits of his work recently ended at Varley Art Gallery Markham and David Kaye Gallery

Mirage Mirage, 2007, silk thread, nail, 178 x 229 x2 cm. Chan explores the three dimensional qualities of thread in his fiber constructions.  

G                                                                                                                                 Kai Chan, G, 2004, 211 x 442 x 4 cm, toothpick, straw, wood chip, watercolor, thread, nail.


Kai Chan, G, detail, 2004. Chan uses a jewelry drill on each toothpick to allow him to string them on lengths of thread.

The catalogue that accompanies the exhibition notes, “The toothpicks hang together like items on a list, like notes on a musical scale. The shape of the toothpick is like a brushstroke, one end being broader than the other.” (from Kai Chan, catalogue for “Rainbow Lakes”, an exhibition in 2001 at the Art Gallery of Mississauga).

Since I am beginning this year contemplating new innovations for my own work, Chan’s explorations of simple materials and processes in the works that reference language marks, list-making and scrolls are informing my own deliberations.


  1. I can see why you are so attracted to this work. Those toothpicks also remind me of pine needles. Amazing really when all strung together like that.

    Reminds me of an artist I took a course from who used matchsticks, often in installations. She set up hundreds, only to take them down at the end of the show.

    Thanks for sharing this. I love to read about new ideas and artist new to me.

  2. Thanks, Jeanne for sharing this. Kai Chan's work is amazing! I am drawn in by the seeming simplicity of his work and the realization of how complex it really is.