SPOTLIGHT: in/visible

Janet Wang

Curated by Andrea Valentine-Lewis

Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC

April 19, 2024 – April 14, 2025

SPOTLIGHT presented by RBC is a collaboration between the Art Rental & Sales Program (AR&S) and the Curatorial Department of the Vancouver Art Gallery. AR&S is a not-for-profit program operated by the Gallery with a mandate of supporting emerging artists based in British Columbia. 

In this collaboration, the Curatorial Department at the Gallery invites an artist represented by AR&S to create an artwork in one of the Gallery’s public spaces. This initiative aims to provide new opportunities for emerging artists, as well as to activate the Gallery’s public spaces for thousands of visitors each year. 

This current iteration of SPOTLIGHT features Vancouver-based artist Janet Wang, who works across a range of media, from illustration, painting and installation to digital media, such as augmented reality and animation. In her art, Wang reimagines traditional patterns often used in drapery and wallpaper—such as Toile de Jouy (an ornate French textile pattern featuring images of rural life) and Chinoiserie (a European artistic interpretation of Asian decorative arts). She also refashions art historical references to tell contemporary, everyday stories. In her wallpaper pieces, Wang centres stories of Chinese Canadians, drawing on her lived experience as a second-generation settler of Chinese heritage. She frequently transforms her designs into installations that occupy underutilized windows or built spaces. 

For her SPOTLIGHT project, Wang is presenting in/visible—a pattern she created based on a decorative toile motif by French artist Jean-Baptiste Marie Huet titled Le Ballon de Gonesse (1784). Huet’s 18th century pattern renders scenes of villagers as a hot air balloon from the nearby city of Paris lands in their fields. Mistaking the unusual flying balloon for a monster, they attack it with pitchforks upon its descent. Wang reworks the narrative to reflect the cultural erasure experienced by many Chinatowns across North America. Her toile pattern is composed of several repeated scenes and references to well-known paintings. One vignette alludes to Édouard Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe (1863), where Wang’s lounging figure is pictured with a disposable coffee cup rather than the picnic lunch in Manet’s original. Wang playfully inserts familiar imagery in her work as an entry point for telling everyday stories.

Janet Wang (b. 1977, Vancouver, BC) is a visual artist and educator whose pluralistic practice encompasses traditional painting, installation work and digital media. As a second-generation settler of Chinese heritage, Wang centres her research around the question of what it means to be Chinese in Canada. Her art plays with familiar decorative and art historical motifs, which she reworks through the introduction of contemporary landmarks and social narratives. Wang is an Associate Professor in the Department of Critical and Cultural Practice at Emily Carr University of Art + Design.