Debut Solo Exhibition Once for a While
In an era of heightened animosity towards immigration and rise in anti-asian hate crimes, artist Chrystal Phan’s upcoming solo exhibition is a timely debut. Featuring large-scale oil paintings of Vietnamese-Canadian life, this show is the first of its kind to explore humour in the Vietnamese-Canadian immigration experience as a way to combat negative stereotypes and connect Canadians of all backgrounds through the awkward experience of finding one’s place in unfamiliar territory.
About the Show
Once For A While is the debut solo exhibition from emerging artist Chrystal Phan. Featuring six large-scale oil paintings of Vietnamese-Canadian life, this show is the first of its kind to explore humour in the Vietnamese-Canadian immigration experience. Using personal stories from friends and family, Chrystal Phan creates painted memories of everything from camping with a deep-fat fryer to jumping into a pool where everyone is fully clothed.
Considering the heightened animosity towards immigration and rise in anti-asian hate crimes, this exhibition aims to combat negative stereotypes by connecting people through the commonly awkward experience of integrating into a different culture and finding your place and identity in a new country.
In addition to the exhibition, Chrystal has designed a concurrent program for students in grades 5-7 to support BC's curriculum on immigration and provide an activity that allows students to observe and discuss art, learn about different families and cultures, practice empathy and even explore their own immigration stories. This program offers an anti-racist educational experience that approaches representation and immigration with open-mindedness and kindness by focusing on empathy and humanity.
This exhibition is presented by Chapel Gallery with support from the Canada Council for the Arts
Location: 600 Richmond Ave, Victoria, BC V8S 3Y7
Dates: January 21, 2022 - Feb 6, 2022.
Hours: Chapel Gallery is open to visitors on Friday, Saturday 12pm-4pm and Sunday, 12pm-3pm
About the Artist
Chrystal Phan is a late-in-life artist who came to realize she had to follow her passion of becoming a full-time painter when she abjectly failed at working everywhere else. With a master’s degree in cultural geography, Chrystal was completely unemployable so found herself working in fundraising for ten years. In 2017 she happened upon an atelier art studio run by Victoria-based artist Nicole Sleeth. For the next three years, Chrystal gained skills in drawing, charcoal, portrait anatomy and oil painting. In 2018 she secured her first large commission and soon after entered the 2019 Sooke Fine Art show where she sold her second painting. She has since taken a workshop with renowned artist Alyssa Monks, and private lessons with New York School of Visual Arts instructor Steven Assael. Steven was integral in helping Chrystal to navigate the planning and logistics of this current project.
Chrystal lives in Victoria BC with her partner, fellow artist Russell Treloar, his son, and their German Shepherd. Together they also run a small design company that focuses on architectural design and marketing/branding. Her work is held in private collections across North America.
Like many parents of children who are artists, Chrystal’s parents tell their friends that she’s a medical doctor.
Quotes from the Artist
On conceiving the project
At age 38 this is the first time I’ve ever tried to explore my background. I never thought my story was interesting until I recognized a gap in representation after viewing an exhibit at the Royal BC Museum that showcased BC families. ‘Where’s my family?’ I asked. After some research I realized that I had an opportunity to help fill a big gap. There were other cues that were pushing me towards a project that focused on representation as well. I saw a local magazine feature of Chinatown business owners that featured almost exclusively white people, despite almost half of the business owners operating in Chinatown at the time being Chinese or Vietnamese.
On finding a gallery
Being a no-name nobody, it was very difficult getting an exhibition space to represent these paintings. After sending out dozens of proposals, only two galleries responded to me, it was with a no, but at least they responded and were encouraging as well. I was incredibly grateful that the Chapel Gallery took this on. I think our values and mission align well so in the end it is a great fit for my first solo exhibition, I couldn’t be happier working with them.
Years ago I was at a dance performance that was amazing but pretty esoteric. Upon discussing the show with a colleague I found out that her daughter who was also in the audience left the performance in tears. She felt ashamed because she didn’t ‘get it’ even though I’m sure most people didn’t ‘get it’, I know I sure didn’t.
Insecurity around understanding art is a barrier that can prevent people from enjoying it and even deter some people from engaging with art to begin with. I hate that. My art is simple, it has a clear narrative and I think it’s funny too. If you can get something out of it, then I’m happy. Whatever your interpretation of it is, it’s correct. My work is like a romantic comedy movie; I’m not trying to be Andrei Tarkovsky here. I have a small but achievable goal - to amuse myself and maybe a few others.
On Being a full-time Artist on Vancouver Island
Victorians loves their landscape and decorative art and there is definitely a theme around what is commercially saleable. But if I only painted for the market then I would be focused on something very disingenuous to my aesthetic. One of the last paintings I made is of shrimp cracker houses that I had lit on fire. I definitely wasn’t thinking about the market when I made it. I have had some amazing patrons who help keep the dream alive through commission work, which I love to do, but otherwise, I’m just painting things I light on fire right now.
The Canada Council for the Arts has been integral to making this dream possible. I wouldn’t be able to pursue this work without their financial support. They really allow artists to fully express their creative impulses without boundaries. It is this kind of work that I think is important for artistic growth for the community.
These images are made available for media for promotional purposes only. They are not to be used for commercial or personal reproduction.
My Still Life, Oil on Canvas, 2021
36”H x 48”W x 3/4”D
Pool Party, Oil on Canvas, 2020
48H x 72”W x 2”D
Detail of Turkey Dinner, Oil on Canvas, 2020
60"H x 72”W x 2”D