Contemporary Kids

June 1st, 2024 – October 6th, 2024

Leisure (Meredith Carruthers and Susannah Wesley), String Games, installation view, The Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver, 2020.

Contemporary Kids is an exhibition bringing together contemporary artists who make art with and for children. Within the framework of contemporary art, the interests and cultural production of children are often excluded. The artists in this exhibition embrace the unique perspectives that children can bring to art and see play as a crucial entry into artistic explorations.

Shaya Ishaq and artist duo Leisure (Meredith Carruthers and Susannah Wesley) have both created immersive installations for the exhibition that allow children to play, reflect, and rest. Under flag-like canopies, kids will find reading pods outfitted with a diverse array of children’s books. Designed by Ishaq, this work celebrates the power of literature to teach children about social justice and serve as a mirror for diverse identities. In Leisure’s interactive installation, kids are encouraged to explore art and movement with their bodies, working alone or with others to weave, stretch, and hoist a web of ropes and soft sculptures.

Alongside these interactive artworks, Amy Wong presents a body of work she produced with her son Rudi. Illustrating the creative negotiations that constitute intergenerational relationships, this work also reveals the vital connection between Wong’s studio practice as an artist and childcare strategies as a parent. Hannah Jickling and Reed H. Reed also present a survey of artwork that was created with children. Developing experimental curriculum for classroom settings, the artists have been thinking alongside kid collaborators for several years. Adopting a critical lens and youthful perspective, they have created an expansive collection of publications, prints, and sculptures inspired by their collaborative projects. Altogether, the work in Contemporary Kids is a celebration of the unique ways children see and engage with their environment. The exhibition is a playground for all ages, serving as a reminder to find joy and fun in each other’s company and seek creative problem solving in an ever-changing world.

About the Artists:

Shaya Ishaq is an interdisciplinary artist, designer, and writer whose research interests span craft, diaspora, design anthropology, and (Afro)futurism. Devoted to materiality, she works with textiles and clay to create wearable art, jewellery, and installations. 

Through the meditative processes of weaving, felting, and handmade ceramics, she explores the nuances of her positionality and the liminality of rites of passage which often leads to sculptural textile and ceramic works. Her curiosity about the poetics and politics of space informs her interests in creating immersive installations that embrace the emergent possibilities of spatial design. This allows her to explore how we relate and hold space for each other across differences.

She has studied Fibres & Material Practices at Concordia University and has exhibited her work at venues including Patel Brown (Toronto), Khyber Centre for the Arts (Nova Scotia), Ottawa Art Gallery, and Art Gallery of Burlington (Ontario). Her writing has been featured in Canadian Art, Studio Magazine, and Public Parking.

Hannah Jickling + Reed H. Reed have been collaborating since 2006. Their projects take shape as public installations, social situations and events that circulate as photographs, videos, printed-matter and artists’ multiples. They have facilitated many collaborative research projects with children, most notably Big Rock Candy Mountain (2015–ongoing). In 2017 they published Multiple Elementary with YYZBOOKS, part exhibition catalogue, artists’ book, and candy store advertisement. Multiple Elementary explores the elementary school classroom as a site for the invention and reception of contemporary art practices.

Jickling and Reed are recipients of numerous awards including the Ian Wallace Award for Teaching Excellence (2016, Emily Carr University), the Mayor’s Arts Award for Public Art (2017, City of Vancouver), the Sobey Art Award Longlist (2018, National Gallery of Canada and the Sobey Art Foundation), the 2018 VIVA Award (Jack and Doris Shadbolt Foundation for the Visual Arts). Together, they have presented work at: Western Front (Vancouver), Contemporary Art Gallery (Vancouver), Mitchell Gallery (Edmonton), Arts League (Houston), the Malmö Art Academy (Malmö, SE), Dunlop Art Gallery (Regina), Studio XX (Montreal), Carleton University Art Gallery (Ottawa), Gallery TPW (Toronto), Kelowna Art Gallery, Theatre of Research (Hamburg), Westfälischer Kunstverein, (Münster, DE), the Tate Liverpool (UK) and the Ruskin School of Art (Oxford, UK).

Jickling and Reed are currently based between xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), səlilwətaɬ/selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) and Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in territories – working to locate their practice between urban/southern and rural/northern contexts. They teach part-time at the Yukon School of Visual Arts.

Leisure is a research-based collaborative art practice between Montreal-based artists Meredith Carruthers (1975) and Susannah Wesley (1976). Recent projects on friendship, collaboration, material exploration and intergenerational exchange include: Having Ideas by Handling Materials (Oakville Galleries, 2023), The Ceremony (Foreman Art Gallery of Bishop’s University, 2021), Conversation with magic forms (most recently exhibited at CAG Vancouver, 2020), the solo retrospective How one becomes what one is (Musée d’art de Joliette, 2018), Panning for gold/Walking you through it (Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, 2017) and Dualité/Dualité (Artexte, Montreal, 2015). Upcoming exhibitions include their curation and participation in the 5th Virginia McClure Ceramic Biennale (2024, McClure Gallery), a group exhibition at the Tartu Art Museum, Estonia (2024), and a solo exhibition at Optica (2025). Wesley and Carruthers are currently working on a precedent setting collaborative PhD candidacy in Research-Creation within Concordia University’s Individualized Program.

Amy Wing-Hang Wong (b. 1981, Toronto, she/they) is an Angry Asian Feminist disguised as an oil painter. Her practice ranges from painting-based installation to collaborative projects that explore the politics of making noise and thinking through together. Often inverting private and public spaces, Wong asserts ways in which a leakiness and messiness of things can aspire towards feminist and decolonial ways of being. Their practice oscillates between varying systems of representation to evoke non-linear, personal narratives. They often work with what they consider a bad idea or a cliché to redefine them on their terms. Wong completed her BFA at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec, MFA at York University in Toronto, Ontario and post-graduate studies at De Ateliers in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Rudi Sun-Yu Wong (b. 2017, Toronto, he/him) is in grade 1 at Iroquois Junior Public School. He knows a lot about bugs, gemstones, outer space, and poop jokes. He loves arts and crafts, swimming, and dancing. Wong lives with his mom, aunt and grandparents in Scarborough and with his dad downtown. He has two dogs and an aquarium of fish and shrimp and farts and plants and rocks and also water. Past collaborations between Amy and Rudi include Room for Taking Care at OCADU Graduate Gallery, Toronto ON; Exchange Pieceat the Design TO Festival; A Glitter of Seas at Dreamsong, Minneapolis, MN in 2021.

This exhibition has been financially assisted by the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund, a program of the Government of Ontario through the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, administered by the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund Corporation.

This exhibition is supported by Companies Who Care.