August 7 — 28, 2021
Hearth Garage
Ulster St, Bathurst St, Toronto, ON M5S 2R1

Joy is sometimes fleeting and nebulous. It is sometimes outlined or overshadowed by grief, sorrow, and deep loneliness. Yet, it continues to glimmer in small ways, especially powerful when nurtured through community care. In the spirit of precarious joy, a joy that is obtained by a communal asking, the artists in this exhibition activate joy as communal resistance, joy as radical acts.

Precarious Joy is the small breath before the big release. It acknowledges ongoing change, capturing the labour of asking for and remembering presence, fostering a small seed of joy in anticipation that it will multiply into something greater. We invite you to sit in the stillness these works offer in their creative tracing of multiple forms and expressions of joy.

Produced by Project 40 Collective, Precarious Joy is our final volume of LooseLeaf Magazine in 3D form. This interdisciplinary group exhibition was postponed due to COVID-19 but thought initially to occur last June 2020 at Northern Contemporary Gallery in conjunction with the launch of LooseLeaf Volume 9 – Power. Coming to you now, we hope Precarious Joy offers a moment of rest and comfort to continue forward in our current seasons of change and upheaval.

This exhibition features the work of L Akhter, Jana Ghalayini, Ramolen Laruan, Tommy Troung, Khanh Tudo, Fong Ki Wan, Sanna Wani, Qirou Yang, and Rice Water Collective: Florence Yee and Arezu Salamzadeh.

The Toronto Arts Council logo in black and white. On the left, the text reads "Toronto Arts Council". The A in "Arts" is a triangle. On the right, the text reads "Funded by the city of Toronto"
Precarious Joy was funded with support from the City of Toronto through Toronto Arts Council.
  • A four image collage. On the left side, it features a beige cloth with text laying on top of grass. The text starts off in red and gradients into maroon at the bottom. On the right side, there are three smaller close up shots stacked over each other. The three images are in grayscale, and show close ups of the text.

Blood Poem – L Akhter, poetry on canvas with gauze, approx 36 x 60”, 2021

An accessible PDF version of the poem can be viewed here.

Even doves wear white to the funeral – Jana Ghalayini, textile, 2021

Even doves wear white to the funeral is an offering to the collective Palestinian community.

The woven tapestry is charged with textures, patterns, and colours that seek to acknowledge the multifaceted emotions that are deeply rooted within our spirit for home and belonging. There is a balance between hope and apathy and trying to process different stages of grief while also searching for joy through resistance and solidarity. The work is inspired by the unity found when we hold space for each other.

Furthermore, the texture and gestures and shapes are an abstract representation of our roots and the land we long to see. With the repetitive nature of the weaving process, these gestural marks and textures are amplified. The earth tones and soft shades of colors combined with the coiled string communicate with each other creating an abstracted landscape that tells a story about love, sadness, pain, prosperity and purpose.

at what time – Ramolen Laruan, pencil on paper, 9 x 10″, 2019 – ongoing

The incomplete and continuous work of remembrance is explored in at what time, a series of drawings and notes on paper depicting what I remember of the village that I grew up in in the Philippines. Some of the drawings were made before I visited the village in the summer of 2019, some a few months after the visit, some created a month ago, and some are copies and interpretations of my brother’s drawing as he participated in the same exercise. An amalgamation of remembered stories, sketches of streets and architecture, and even recalling dreams that took place by multiple people and multiple periods are depicted.

These drawings are evidence of incomplete recollections of a place by several people with varying experiences. The stories represented are fragmented in their accounts, blurring boundaries between biography, fiction, and multiple truths. The memories recorded in at what time are not only residuals of the liminal recollection of a place too far away in memory. They also undergo selection processes and reworkings, participating in a multiphase activity of excavation, falsification, and selection. Through layers of mediation, translation, and mistranslation, at what time does not offer a straightforward representation or an authentic testimonial voice of a subject as a way to articulate unfinished experiences.

June 3rd 2020 – Tommy Truong, 360 Single-channel video, 2020

June 3rd 2020 was meant to be a site-specific installation, initially inspired by the different stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). My practice as an artist has been fundamentally shaped by examining the questions and ideas surrounding the permanence and significance of memory using digital media. This work encourages reflection on themes of time, space, and precarity.

The title of the piece was named after the originally scheduled date of this exhibition, to have been held at Northern Contemporary Art Gallery. The piece was originally meant to be experienced in the gallery through a VR (virtual reality) headset, shown from the point of view in the 360-degree virtual space. Presenting the same environment virtually that the viewer is physically occupying, the work brings attention to the present time and space, toggling between immersion and breaking the 4th wall. The work was only to be shown at this exhibition, leaving only a brief window of time where the piece can only be experienced as an event-specific installation – letting it live and die with the exhibition.

Due to COVID-19, the piece was never shown on its scheduled date, and therefore the piece was renamed as June 3rd 2020. Northern Contemporary Art Gallery has since closed and June 3rd 2020 is now presented as documentation of a work that was never realized. The production of this piece was placed on hold in early 2020 shortly before its completion. This state of limbo added a new layer of meaning for me. So to transform an unrealized event-specific installation, I added digitally drawn components to the piece which serves as snippets of time that had passed between exhibition dates, redeveloping it into a time-based documentation of this piece’s purgatory.

habitual wear – Khanh Tudo, textiles (fabric, yarn, embroidery floss), 2021

For the black sock
24cm x 10cm x 1cm
“Weeda, birthday gift from 2016”

For the baby onesie
60cm x 70cm x 1cm
“Tito, purchased for him in 2000 when he was born. Has since been hand-me-downed to 7 babies”

For the frogs sock
31cm x 11cm x 1cm
“Adam, secret santa gift from 2012”

An ode to the precarity of clothing and love to the time spent living in them. The way we sit, bike, and fidget, generously reflected through threads unravelling. In lengthening the life of each item, the weave reflects on the garment’s life that came before the mend, that will continue afterwards. Corporations erase the labour and faces of those who have masterfully crafted these garments together. Yet, each repair shows respect to the earth we live on, recognizing stories of hand-me-downs and mending as ways of community care, sharing a part of the self.

Each piece will be returned to their previous owners, to be worn, torn and passed down again.

  • A four image collage of intricate, illustrative papers. On the left, there are two stacked grayscale photos. The one above is a papercutting of an open door, with a box being looped in through the door. The second is a papercut of fluttering leaves. Next to that is a papercut on a gold sheet over a green background, it features an organic shape of leaves. On the very right is an image of a gold paper cut of tangerines on a red background.
  • Four white frames are hung on a white wall, cascading downwards from the left. Far left, within the frame sits a yellow papercut over a red background. Centre left, is a blue speckled background with a white papercut. Centre right is a red papercut over a white background. Far right, there is a gold papercut over a green background.
  • A photo of a small gold papercut of a peeled orange sits in the centre of a red background within a square white frame. The frame is hung on a blank wall.
  • A photo of a small white papercut of a door with a box in front sits in the centre of a blue speckled paper background. It is framed in a square white frame, hung on a blank wall.
  • A photo of a small intricate red papercut of fluttering leaves sits in the centre of a white background. It is framed in a square white frame, hung on a blank wall. The photo is taken a little angled from the left side of the frame.
  • A photo of a small intricate cream papercut of organic shapes sits in the centre of a stark forestry green background. It is framed in a square white frame, hung on a blank wall. The photo is taken a little angled from the left side of the frame.

Are You Happy? – Fong Ki Wan, papercut series, 2018 – 2020

New Growth, papercut, 4.75 x 2.75”, 2019 [green background]
Peeled Oranges, papercut, 3 x 3.5”, 2018 [red background]
Flutter, papercut, 2.75 x 2.5”, 2020 [white background]
Helping Hands, papercut, 3.5 x 3”, 2019 [blue background]

My work stems from my interactions with the world around me and how I perceive them. In this series, I connected with other people’s experiences by reflecting on them through my artistic interpretation. I wanted to create a conversation with those who provided me with their small moments of joy that then can be joined by everyone who views the pieces. Through these interactions, the meanings and themes in each papercut are subject to change from the individuals who view them; however, the core feelings conveyed remain the same. Since I can never truly experience other people’s joy in the same way as they did, I try to remember the similar moments in my own experience. Each work represents other people’s joys that are made from happy moments in my life. Often it was things that were overlooked but through the act of creating, I can remember them and experience them all over again.

Are you Happy? takes little moments in people’s everyday lives where they feel joy and makes it a tangible representation for others to view and enjoy. So often, these little joyful moments can easily be overlooked in the day-to-day when people choose to focus on the big things. With this series, I hope people can spend a little bit longer enjoying the little things.

  • A three image collage. On the left is an image of a hand with palms up, delicately scooping a small white daisy between the fingers. There is poetry written on the hand, and grass behind the hand. On the top right is a black and white image of the same hand, scooping a mushroom in the same position, with poetry written on the hand. On the bottom right is a close up of a hand cradling apples, with poetry written on the thumb.

Sorting, Naming, Counting – Sanna Wani

Sorting, poetry, 10 x 14”, 2021
Naming, poetry, 10 x 14”, 2021
Counting, poetry, 10 x 14”, 2021

An accessible PDF version of the poems can be viewed here.

How to Be Satiated in the Dark – Qirou Yang, acrylic photo mount, 32 x 18”, 2021

“Ghost town” is a geographical phenomenon when houses and apartments of a developmental zone are being built more than demanded. With only a few families taking residence in a largely empty area, those “homes” no longer seem to fit the supposed warm, comforting idea of “home.” Developers keep building more and more apartments in order to attract people for investment. The empty buildings which exist in the area make the section where they were constructed gradually like a “ghost zone.”

I have always found my hometown, Donghai in southern China, is reminiscent of my childhood memories, until I noticed the “ghost zone” phenomenon there. In 2017, our family moved into one of the 48 houses in the villa section of Donghai. By the time we moved in, those villas were already empty for several years.

By tracing a religious dream that I once had, my deepest and fragmented subconscious memories of living experience at my childhood home, and my father’s villa dream, I aim to reveal my psychological belonging to my provenance. The 3D models in the animation are accomplished by Photogrammetry – a digital simulation process of reconstructing the object or landscape by assembling images for the Point Cloud. By photographing and constructing plenty of photographs from the villa zone, I created virtual replicas of the ghost zone. The process of virtually moving inside the abstract and pixelated computer-generated buildings is similar to the progress of searching for an uncertain longing: I am wandering in the detached space, yet it is the space in my provenance – an anchor in my life.

My ultimate goal is not seeking a solution for the mundane architecture that is a product of the complexity of greed. Although the project has rarely been discussed directly through a socio-political position, it focuses on delivering a story that provokes the viewers’ phenomenological contemplation between their self-perception and the living space.

The accompanying video for How to Be Satiated in the Dark can be viewed here. *Epilepsy warning.

  • An image collage of ceramic sculptures shaped as tangerine peels. On the top left is an image of a bright orange tangerine peel sculpture. The peel is open, with the orange skin side facing up. On the top right is an black and white image of several peel sculptures. On the bottom right is a coloured detail shot of one tangerine peel curling inwards, with a few peels in the back.

Please Help Yourself – Rice Water Collective: Florence Yee and Arezu Salamzadeh, ceramic, 14 pieces – each 3 x 3 x 3”, 2020

Please Help Yourself is a collection of glazed ceramics that resemble tangerine peels. The offering of tangerines is reminiscent of the ways that our families often welcome guests in their homes and the simple food that is shared amongst friends on the side of the curb. As ceramic works, the inconspicuous leftovers of our shared gatherings become small monuments to those moments. They speak to cultures of hospitality that adapt to uncertainty. As an expansion upon this project, we have transformed it into a wider collaborative endeavour. During the pandemic, we mailed a small portion of clay with accompanying instructions to relatives and friends who we could not visit, for us to “share a tangerine” through the process of collective artmaking. As we received them back through the mail, they were fired in a kiln. Seeing as the material of clay bares all the traces of the maker’s hands, this process of exchange retains an intimate connection of touch and care to carry on during a time of isolation.

Artist Bios

L Akhter

L Akhter is a Bangladeshi settler poet based in Treaty 13 territory. Her work and research focuses on intergenerational trauma and injustice. She can be found @ls.akhter on Instagram and at sporadic community open mics.

Jana Ghalayini

Website | Instagram
Jana Ghalayini (b.1993) is a Palestinian-Canadian visual artist currently based in Toronto, Canada. She earned her BFA in Printmaking from OCAD University in 2017. The artist is influenced by material exploration of texture, patterns and abstraction and works closely with a range of mediums such as painting, hand-printing and weaving. Her process driven work investigates home, heritage and lived experiences. Jana works intuitively, learning while making, her interest for tactile objects and crafts are rooted within the technical proficiency of her ancestral heritage of weaving, embroidery and ornaments/ talismans.

Ramolen Laruan

Website | Instagram
Ramolen Laruan is an interdisciplinary artist based in Tkaronto/Toronto, ON. Her artistic practice explores a variety of mediums ranging from sculpture, collage, print, photography, film, installation, and other digital work to offer new patterns of thinking about displacement, migration, politics of knowledge, notions of truth/multiple truths,  memory, and remembrance. Her work has been featured in various publications and exhibited in group and travelling exhibitions across Canada and the United States. Recent solo exhibitions include still, unfolding (2020) at Zalucky Contemporary. Laruan received her BFA at Queen’s University and MFA at Western University in 2020.

Tommy Truong

Tommy Truong is a digital artist, emerging curator, workshop instructor, and independent animator, whose work explores the ideas of human behavior, screen-based media, and storytelling; specifically, how they coincide and complement one another. Recognizing the artistic merit of his practice, Truong was shortlisted for Equitable Bank’s Emerging Digital Artist Award, and received OCAD U’s Integrated Media Project 31 Scholarship. Truong has also exhibited in venues across Toronto like, Xpace Cultural Centre, OCAD University, Artscape, The Royal Cinema, Daniel Spectrum, The Royal Cinema, The Brandscape, Tranzac, and Art Gallery of Ontario.

Khanh Tudo

Website | Instagram
Having been raised in their mom’s sewing store, Khanh Tudo has been exploring their relationship to textiles through the multi-generational roots that steer them. Formally trained in cinematography and Film & TV lighting, Khanh’s DIY installation work has been self-taught, and youtube supported. Currently embracing projects and moments in time that allow for deep breathing and repetitive actions.

Fong Ki Wan

Website | Instagram
Toronto-based, emerging artist Fong Ki Wan graduated from a joint program at the University of Toronto, Mississauga campus and Sheridan College for a Bachelors of Arts degree in Art and Art History. She is interested in taking different moments from everyday life and converting them in her work. She develops her own interpretation of different experiences, focusing on her process of identifying various shapes in regular, ordinary objects to realizing them through her art works. From initial sketches to material handling, the physical act of creating is an essential component in her creative process. Fong Ki works with different media including printmaking, but is now primarily focusing on paper as her main medium.

Sanna Wani

Sanna Wani lives between Mississauga and Srinagar. She loves daisies.

Qirou Yang

Website | Instagram
Qirou Yang is a Toronto-based multidisciplinary artist who originally came from southern China. She received her BFA in Photography at OCAD University and MFA in Documentary Media at Ryerson University. Her art practices, which are intertwin between reality and fiction, are mostly driven by tracing her personal memory and self-perception. She utilizes text, photography, moving images and installation to explore the ontology of the medium. She believes that the nature of every medium ought not to be dull and set in stone, but to be sculptable and flexible as mud. She has participated in Vector Festival, Video Fever, UAAC Conference, Digital Art Residency COLLAB-19 in 2020, and she is now participating in the Residency Videopoem at the gallery Vidéographe in Montreal.

Rice Water Collective: Florence Yee and Arezu Salamzadeh

Florence’s Website | Florence’s Instagram | Arezu’s Website | Arezu’s Instagram
Rice Water is the collective name of interdisciplinary artists Florence Yee and Arezu Salamzadeh.

Florence Yee (they/them) is a visual artist and recovering workaholic based in Tkaronto/Toronto and Tiohtià:ke/Montreal. Their practice uses text-based art, sculpture, and textile installation through the intimacy of doubt. Their work has been exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art (2021), the Art Gallery of Ontario (2020), the Textile Museum of Canada (2020), and the Gardiner Museum (2019), among others. Along with Arezu Salamzadeh, they have co-founded the Chinatown Biennial in 2020. They are the current Co-Director of Tea Base. They obtained a BFA from Concordia University and an MFA from OCAD U. They are represented by Studio Sixty-Six.

Arezu Salamzadeh (she/they) is a Mississauga-based artist who creates objects for people to interact with and spaces for people to move through. She is interested in asking questions about hospitality, cultural identity, power, love, and loneliness through a language of entertainment, humor, and play. They received their BFA with Honors from the School of Visual Arts, NYC, in 2016. She has since exhibited at galleries, museums, and unconventional venues throughout Canada, the US, Italy, and the UK. They are currently a Master of Visual Studies candidate at the University of Toronto.

atif m. khan

atif m. khan is an emerging writer and artist exploring text, image and curatorial practice. his research-driven practice intersects key themes of political violence, nationalism, visual studies and knowledge production. khan’s broader research investigates colonial/postcolonial military occupations across the United States, Somalia, Afghanistan & Pakistan.

Curated by Abby Ho and Amanda Low

Documentation photographs and floor plan by Andrew Keung

LooseLeaf Magazine, Original and Updated Logos, Courtesy of Caroline Teng