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Gardiner Museum

Brendan Tang

Brendan Tang

Manga Ormolu Ver. 5.0-k
Ceramics, mixed media


Manga Ormolu enters the dialogue on contemporary culture, technology, and globalization through a fabricated relationship between ceramic tradition (using the form of Chinese Ming dynasty vessels) and techno-Pop Art. The futuristic update of the Ming vessels in this series recalls 18th century French gilded ormolu, where historic Chinese vessels were transformed into curiosity pieces for aristocrats. But here, robotic prosthetics inspired by anime (Japanese animation) and manga (the beloved comics and picture novels of Japan) subvert elitism with the accessibility of popular culture.

Working with Asian cultural elements highlights the evolving Western experience of the “Orient.” This narrative is personal: the hybridization of cultures mirrors my identity as an ethnically-mixed Asian Canadian. My family history is one of successive generations shedding the markers of ethnic identity in order to succeed in an adopted country – within a few generations this cultural filtration has spanned China, India, Trinidad, Ireland and Canada.

Manga Ormolu, through content, form and material, vividly demonstrates the conflicting and complementary forces that shape our perceptions of Ourselves and the Other.

Brendan Tang


Brendan Tang was born in Dublin, Ireland of Trinidadian parents and is a naturalized citizen of Canada. He earned his formal art education on both Canadian coasts and the American Midwest, where he learn to appreciate the ceramic medium. Tang has lectured at conferences and academic institutions across the country, and his professional practice has also taken him to India, Trinidad and Japan. He has been a resident artist at the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts (Helena, MT) and will participate in an international residency at the European Ceramic Work Centre ('s-Hertogenbosch, NL) in 2011.

Tang’s work has been showcased at galleries and in printed and online media. He has been exhibited at the Seattle Art Museum, the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal (as a Sobey Finalist 2010), and Art Labor in Shanghai, and upcoming exhibitions of his work will take place at the Surrey Art Gallery, and the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery. He has been profiled by The Knowledge Network, and featured in printed publications including The National Post, Wired (UK and Italy), and ELLE (Canada). The broad appeal of his work is evident online, where he has received attention from prominent blogs around the globe, including Boing Boing, NotCot and Design Boom.

Tang dedicates his full attention to his professional art practice, where he continues to explore the interface between culture and material.

Nominator Statement

Brendan Tang is actively engaged in a lively conversation with ceramics, referencing imagery and ideas from the 18th through to the 21st centuries - both Eastern and Western. Tang epitomizes that perfect blend of contemporary and historical. He manipulates these references in astonishing ways, some benign some even sinister. The work comments on the hybridization of cultures and mirrors his own identity.  His objects are multi-layered and dynamic – a malleable relationship with history rather than a static one.

Melanie Egan, nominator
Head of Craft, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto

Nominator Bio

Melanie Egan has been involved with contemporary craft for over 30 years. She is Head of Craft at Harbourfront Centre; she co-edited the book Crafting New Traditions: Canadian Innovators and Influences - with Alan C. Elder and Jean Johnson CM published by the Canadian Museum of Civilization. Selected curated exhibitions include:  LOOK out, co-curator Patrick Macaulay, 2012; Timorous Beasties, 2010; Shaping Stories – Michael D. Massie, 2009, Toronto; and STUFF: Ingenuity and CritiqueContemporary Danish Craft co-curator Louise Campbell (DK), 2004. She received the George Brown College –Alumni Wall of Fame, Award in 2010 and the John Mather Award from the Ontario Crafts Council, 2007.  She is on the Board of Trustees at the Textile Museum of Canada; sits on the Editorial Advisory Committee for the Ontario Crafts Council. She was a member of the curatorial collective, OBJECToronto (2006-2009) and is part of the curatorial partnership, McClure & Egan. She is the Co-Chair of the Society of North American Goldsmiths Conference: Meta-Mosaic, Toronto 2013. In 2010 Egan became the Co-Founder and Creative Director for the Toronto International Jewellery Festival.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Toni Hafkenscheid Photography

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