Born Cholon, Saigon, Vietnam
B.Arch, McGill University School of Architecture, 1973
Visiting student, Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, 2005-06
Elected member, Ontario Society of Artists
Rosalie Lam’s paintings never sit still; they freely expand and compress, dip and weave in and around the viewer’s consciousness. Taking in Lam’s paintings is much like viewing an opulent dance—I almost feel as though I’m watching a grand production of Swan Lake. Movement, colour, and swift brushstrokes evoke vivid tapestries of city life, war, and the collision between urban development and the natural environment. As I scroll through Lam’s paintings, I become a flâneuse, acutely observing a life I have never known but which feels alive and present.
Lam’s work is an invitation to quite literally meditate. Meditation requires that an individual awaken all their senses and become aware of whatever may arise in consciousness—a car horn, a gust of wind, the smell of coffee. The point is simply to sit in the present moment. In the same way, Lam suggests the importance of sitting still and observing for a time. Because her paintings abound with movement and intensity, it’s necessary that her audience do the opposite. In her series, Cholon, Not Forgotten, Lam constructs multiple tapestries on each canvas, utilizing brisk, short brushstrokes and a splattering of exquisite colours to depict frenzied cityscapes and blinding explosions in the sky. This is a Vietnam torn apart by napalm, bombs, grief, and destruction. But it’s also a Vietnam where life, love, and celebration persist. There is joy here still.
The series Impressions of Sacred Cows and Canada Geese comprise a multitude of paintings (or rather, ‘impressions’ as the title suggests) of cows in New Delhi and Canadian Geese in Toronto. Lam’s aesthetic visions of urban animals plays with ways of seeing—she maintains a technical playfulness in all pieces, refusing to confine herself to a single style. “Postures,” a painting of two Canadian Geese, evokes Kandinsky, while “Cows in monsoon” is reminiscent of Cézanne. Both series comprise of a dozen paintings each, and no two paintings are similar in technique, even if the subject matter remains the same. To this end, Lam questions the plurality of the individual’s viewpoint and how memory is fluid and impactful, constantly reworking itself into something slightly different each time the memory is recalled.
-Erin Storus, independent curator