2023 Honourable Mention

Chrystal Phan
Showing 66cm x 91cm relative to 200cm x 200cm

The purple square represents the relative size of the portrait to a 2 metre x 2 metre maximum size allowed.

Chrystal Phan

Home: Victoria, British Columbia
Title: I Want To Tell You Something
Media: oil on canvas
Dimensions: 66 x 91 cm
Website: www.chrystalphan.ca


Self-portraits seem like the best way to practise painting since the model costs nothing, and she is always available when I am. Yet I never liked doing them because I’ve seen my face every day for 40 years, so the idea of painting it seems boring to me. But for this painting, I had no other choice. I am extremely sensitive to how women’s bodies are still overwhelmingly objectified in art. In choosing to create a painting of a woman as the subject, not the object, I wanted to tell a different story. This is why I decided not to use a model for this portrait. Representing other people’s bodies in a vulnerable way feels discomfiting to me. Yet if I paint my own body, I know I have full consent and moral authority to do so. I am experimenting with myself in a pose often used for painting women, a figure lying in repose. Still, I wanted to do it in a way I considered realistic and relatable. Not naked and not in lingerie, and not exploited for her young body or old body. This is a regular middle-aged woman who sleeps in old t-shirts and shorts. This is what representation looks like for me.


With a background in Cultural Geography and Fundraising, Chrystal didn’t pursue an artistic career until 2019, when she recognized the need for more Asian-Canadian representation in the art scene of her hometown of Victoria, BC. The drive behind her work is to represent Asian faces in the mainstream fine art world in ways that are not exotic, magical, or otherwise orientalized, and to draw attention to how Canadian identity is formed and guarded, which can keep racialized Canadians from ever feeling entirely and truly ‘Canadian’.

Chrystal studied art from 2017-2019 in the Atelier of Nicole Sleeth in Victoria, BC, and has since attended workshops and private classes with American artists such as Alyssa Monks and Steven Assael.