You may already be familiar with Ken Lum as an artist who’s made his mark locally (notably through his hard-to-miss Monument for East Vancouver), but he’s also created several public artworks internationally, many of which are especially striking in how they use public space to express personal experiences of cultural identification and alienation, with both derisive humour and empathy.

Having grown up in East Vancouver, Ken Lum makes work that engages historical facets of his city and the multiculturalism labelled to it with suprising insight. His interest in the representation of cultural identity extends to the question of immigration and how one can feel at home – or not – in a given place.

Perhaps his largest public commission is There is no place like home (2000-01), a 540-square meter work that adorned the side of a Vienna gallery. The work created controversy as it was seen to address the rise of anti-immigrant political will in Austria and Europe at the time.

There is no place like home,  2000–01, Ken Lum

There is no place like home, 2000–01, Ken Lum

There is no place like home (detail), 2000-01, Ken Lum

There is no place like home (detail), 2000-01, Ken Lum

Another work addressing the question of identity is A Tale of Two Children: A Work for Strathcona (2005). The work contrasts the everyday experiences of two children and how their success and failure are perceived. This is a more inconspicuous public artwork, situated next to railway lines and the Pacific Central Station in Vancouver, but it makes the scale of the two panels resonate with the banality of neighborhood life depicted, and how likely anecdotal experiences are to be forgotten.

If you want to check out this work yourself, it’s located at the National Worksyard, at the corner of Malkin and Thornton streets. Ken Lum actually grew up two blocks away from the works yard!

A Tale of Two Children: A Work for Strathcona, 2005, Ken Lum

A Tale of Two Children: A Work for Strathcona, 2005, Ken Lum

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