Podcast, Arts & Culture, Urban Issues, Community

Episode 85: Remembering Chinatown — with Gwen Boyle

November 02, 2020
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A visual artist who grew up in Vancouver’s Chinatown, Gwen Boyle’s work explores movement, history, and place. 

The granddaughter of a Pender Street jeweller, Gwen draws inspiration from the sights and sounds of her childhood — the clinking of beads on an abacus, the hammering of jade, the melting of gold. 

Gwen is in conversation with host Am Johal about experiences from her Chinatown upbringing. She shares what led her to pursue a lifelong career in art, and her fascination with the Arctic. She also speaks to some of her particular works, including the public art installation, “Abacus (Suan Phan),” an interactive sculpture symbolic of the “merchants and old social fabric of Shanghai Alley and Chinatown.”

About Our Guest

Gwen Boyle

I am originally from Vancouver and after many years of living and working in the Yukon returned to that city to study art while raising a family. 

I received my diploma from the Vancouver School of Art – now Emily Carr University of Art + Design – in the early 1970′s, and after further sculpture studies under Jack Harman, graduated with honours in bronze casting in 1975. While I have made smaller works, my interest has always been in large scale, interactive sculptures and I have explored this most extensively in my public art commissions. I enjoy the challenge of making public art – from the historic research of site, to engineering problem solving, to the knowledgeable and enthusiastic specialists I work alongside during the long creative process.

In 1989 I was fortunate to spend time again in the North, this time travelling to Resolute in Canada’s high arctic to make my art. This was a significant experience in my life and career, and the memory of that landscape and human relation to it has stayed with me ever since. I currently live and work in Vancouver, near to the ocean and a different kind of inspiring natural and urban expanse.

Photos courtesy of Melanie Boyle.



Johal, Am. “Remembering Chinatown — with Gwen Boyle.” Below the Radar, SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement. Podcast audio, November 2, 2020.


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