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One image inspires a community

BLANK BOY CANVAS at the Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen West), December 10 to 22. 416-531-4635. Rating: NNNN

The Curious and Creative collective brings Chinese Renaissance man Danny Yung’s collaborative project Blank Boy Canvas to the Gladstone Hotel. 

A graduate of UC Berkeley in architecture and in urban planning at Columbia, Yung blossomed into one of Hong Kong’s first interdisciplinary and multimedia artists while founding the Zuni Isocahedron, an avant-garde theatre collective. He works in cartoons, film and video, visual and installation art. 

The exhibit centres around Tian Tian, a cartoon character Yung has been drawing since childhood, the innocent figure of a little boy pointing upward. “Every day we look up” or “Tian tian xiang tiang shian” was a Maoist slogan written on the wall of every elementary school during Yung’s childhood in the 1950s. Yung slyly repurposes Mao’s phrase to his own creative and political ends, using it as a clarion call for creativity and critical thinking. 

Drawing on the power of collaboration, Yung encourages people to use the figure of Tian Tian as a Blank Boy Canvas. Having reimagined his cartoon as a 50-centimetre-high white sculpture, he invites local artists, visitors and children to draw on it in any way they see fit. 

So far, North American artists have made over 100 different Tian Tian sculptures. The Gladstone is showing versions by Montrealers and Torontoians. A figurine by Montreal’s Chris Dyer, for example, has an Indonesian demon masked face and henna tattoos executed in poppy comic-book colours, while Toronto’s Jon Todd has silkscreened image after caricatured image on his figure’s surface until it resembles a warped pop-culture prism.

Since 2010, Yung’s taken Tian Tian to major Asian cities and is continuing his tour through Europe and North America, making stops in New York City, Chicago, Toronto and Vancouver. 

Through his collaborative exhibits, he hopes to encourage round table dialogues among artists and art lovers about the gallery and museum system and by extension the culture industry, education and ultimately social policy.

art@nowtoronto.com | @nowtoronto

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