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Soheila Esfahani

Are you buying these with loonies or toonies?

March 9 - June 16, 2024

The Canadians by Soheila Esfahani

Soheila Esfahani, The Canadians, 2024. Collected ceramic ducks, mallards, and loons. Courtesy of the artist.


Soheila Esfahani, who grew up in Tehran, Iran and moved to Canada in 1992, draws on her experience as an immigrant to navigate the terrains of cultural identity through her practice by questioning how certain images, icons, symbols, and stereotypes associated with nationality are constructed and the way they are disseminated, reinforced, commodified, displaced, and reinserted into society. Her work aims to disrupt this prevalent discourse by moving away from the absolutism of national identity and offering a space of in-betweenness where locations of cultures can be negotiated, and new narratives adapted and hybridized. This concept of cultural translation is what critical theorist Homi Bhabha describes as the third space—a postcolonial sociolinguistic theory of identity that emerges from the interweaving elements of different cultures, positioning each person as a unique, hybrid being.

In this exhibition, Esfahani is responding to the question “where are you from?”, that many immigrants are often asked, by exploring Tom Thomson’s legacy as a national icon and other symbols traditionally associated with Canadian identity from a diasporic lens. Through various multimedia works that layer stereotypical Canadian references with Iranian cultural motifs, interventions with found objects, and multiple painted and 3D printed replicas of Thomson paintings and artefacts, Esfahani transforms the gallery into a physical third space that dissolves the boundaries between both Iranian and Canadian cultures.


About the artist:

Soheila Esfahani grew up in Tehran, Iran, and moved to Canada in 1992. She holds a BA in Fine Arts from University of Waterloo and a Master of Fine Arts from Western University. Esfahani is an award-winning visual artist and recipient of numerous grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Region of Waterloo Arts Fund. She is a recipient of 2016 Waterloo Region Arts Awards and was nominated for the Jameel Prize at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, UK in 2015. Her work has been exhibited across Canada and internationally including at the Aga Khan Museum, Canadian Cultural Centre Paris, Doris McCarthy Gallery, Cambridge Art Galleries among others, and has been collected by various public and private institutions, including the Canada Council’s Art Bank.  Recently, Esfahani has designed a limited mintage coin for the Royal Canadian Mint’s Celebrating Canada’s Diversity Collection. She is an Assistant Professor at Western University in London, Ontario and is a member of the Red Head Gallery in Toronto.


Affiliated programming and resources:

Opening Reception - Saturday March 23, 2024 from 2:00pm to 4:00pm

Panel Discussion - Saturday March 23, 2024 from 1:00pm to 2:00pm 

Extended Text Booklet - online version

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808 2nd Avenue East,
Owen Sound, ON
N4K 2H4
Phone: 519-376-1440
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840 1st Ave W

Owen Sound, ON N4K 4M4

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Gallery Hours:

Monday - Saturday 10:00am - 5:00pm

Sunday 12:00pm - 4:00pm

Tom Thomson Art Gallery gratefully acknowledges our operational supporters:

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