by Anthony Lam, 2006
© Anthony Lam
Past exhibition archive
Cherish: Chinese Families in Britain
Includes hands-on interactives and activities.
23 September 2006 - 11 March 2007
Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund
An exhibition exploring photographic family portraits and the family album. Featuring work from the National Portrait Gallery Collection, and new work by Chinese families from across the UK.
Traditionally the family has been the most important unit in Chinese society and culture, and in China this is often still true. But what about Chinese families living in Britain? How have their family values been integrated into, or influenced by, British culture? In Cherish: Chinese Families in Britain Chinese families from London, Manchester and Glasgow have worked with three professional photographers to explore these themes.
Using the National Portrait Gallery collection, the participants have also explored how families are represented in family portraits, and how we document our own families in family albums. Displayed alongside the new work by the participants and Chinese photographers are works from the National Portrait Gallery collection, which reveal a range of ways that the family is portrayed. From the austere and formal 19th century portrait of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Christina Rossetti and their family, to the intimate photograph of Laurence Olivier, Joan Plowright and their infant Richard.
Developed in partnership with the Chinese Arts Centre in Manchester, Cherish has evolved out of three-community based projects, led by: Pamela So, working with families in Glasgow; Yan Preston, working with families in Manchester; and Anthony Lam with families in London. The resulting exhibition is a diverse celebration of family and cultural history.
Each family has brought a different approach, and their own perspective to the project. For many of the families, food and allotments were a recurring theme central to family life, and Chong's family in Glasgow have been represented by the installation of a potting shed, decorated with photographs of his Malaysian Chinese family.
In recent years digital photography has expanded the concept of the family album. The Ang family use digital photography to document the important journey back to their roots in Malaysia.
Many of the families have enjoyed exploring old family photographs and considering their own heritage. In Manchester the Lee family have created a timeline of their family history using intriguing original family photographs, and the Lam family have interpreted the brief by building a 3D family tree complete with branches and leaves.
In London, families from the Soho Family Centre have used postcards to take us on a journey to their version of a traditional British seaside holiday in Clacton. One of the fathers, a Chinese chef, has cleverly used the food in his restaurant as a metaphor for the family and Chinese family values.
Cherish has provided a unique opportunity for the Chinese community to represent themselves within a national gallery. The families have all worked with leading Chinese photographers who have given them the skills and confidence to document their own lives. This is a really important exhibition as it presents a realistic glimpse of Chinese contemporary life in Britain and draws our attention to the similarities, and differences, between these families and our own.
Sarah Champion, CEO, of the Chinese Arts Centre