BRENDAN TANG: MANGA ORMOLU
Referencing French ormolu, an 18th century process which saw antique Chinese ceramics gilded with precious metals and appendages, Tang’s sculptures embrace a similar hybridity of cultural artifacts in an explicitly anachronistic manner. Where ormolu made the Orient more palatable to the appetites of a wealthy European elite, Tang’s work appropriates the popular tastes of today crippling the exclusivity of this historically privileged territory. In his series Manga Ormolu, he creates an amalgamation of historic Eastern ceramics with another Eastern tradition – manga – a comic style in which dark stories of robots and space travel were historically predominant. Today, manga has become a global phenomenon ground up in the mill of pop culture, and as a peculiar polyp on a Ming vase, seems poised to devour anything in its path.
The Western world’s view of its Eastern counterparts has induced much scholarship revealing imperialist power structures at the heart of prevailing definitions of non-European peoples. Tang’s appropriation and synthesis of cultural traditions that have been adopted, transformed, or some might argue, bastardized, by a global culture further demonstrates the added complexity of an ever-changing Western experience of the Orient, or more generally, the Other. Moreover, Tang’s explorations of ethnic identity and social hierarchies reveal a personal interest given his multicultural background which spans China, India, Trinidad, Ireland and Canada. He notes, too, that like many immigrants, his family history is “one of successive generations shedding the markers of ethnic identity in order to succeed in an adopted country.”
Whether evoking genetic experiments gone awry, transmogrification in mid-process, or odd, yet harmonious unions, Tang’s recombinant ceramics splice the personal and collective, historic and contemporary, and exotic and quotidian. In doing so Tang provides a unique voice on contemporary culture, technology, and globalization.
Brendan Tang was born in Dublin, Ireland of Trinidadian parents, and is a naturalized citizen of Canada. His education includes an MFA from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, and a BFA from Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. Tang has exhibited in shows in Canada and the US, including at the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Ottawa Art Gallery, and the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft. He has lectured at conferences and academic institutions across Canada. He currently resides in Kamloops, British Columbia.
Organized by the Southern Alberta Art Gallery, curated by Ryan Doherty. Funding assistance from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Alberta Foundation for the Arts and the City of Lethbridge.
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