By Elaine Wong
The first thing you will notice in the Toronto Free Gallery is a large expanse of canvas pinned to the wall—on which the growing mural of creative resident Chaw Ei Thein‘s Quiet River is spreading.
The mural is bordered with heads and grasping hands that reach into its central images: a procession of monks that references the Saffron Revolution, a series of protests in late 2007 that were led by Buddhist monks, as well as a scene of Myanmar’s rapid deforestation. But the mural and its contents maintain a degree of flexibility, continuing to expand as Thein is influenced by the conversations she has with guests to the gallery.
Thein wishes not only to express to her audience what it is like to be living with such political and military unrest, but also to encourage input from her audience in the hopes of finding answers and support. Respectful and admiring of the human condition that allows people to survive/endure/overcome hardships, she asks her audience for tales of their own lives and their own difficulties. Inquiring about rights and freedoms, what constitutes rights and freedoms, and even how individuals would respond to a dictatorship here in Canada, Thein hopes to spark a solution through human interaction and conversation.
She will be resuming work on the mural on Tuesday, October 28, continuing daily. The mural will be part of Thein’s final performance at the Toronto Free Gallery on Saturday, November 1.