It’s Personal (The Journey) by Toan Khoan

It’s Personal (The Journey) by Toan Khoan

Reception: Friday, March 15, 6-8 pm //

February 27 – March 23 //


It’s Personal (The Journey) walks you through the memories of Toan Khoan, a Vietnamese artist who fled his country in 1983.


“I was born in Saigon, Vietnam and was a student at the National College of Fine Arts from 1972-1977. After the war ended in April 1975, several hundred thousand south government officers and ex-soldiers were put in prisons. Their families were re-located to the countryside which lacked electricity, running water, and infrastructures such as schools, hospitals, and roads. Their former homes and businesses were confiscated. The whole society and living conditions were turned upside down, no more private enterprises, no more free markets, and very few jobs available. In addition, food, cooking fuels, clothes, etc. had to be rationed. People started to go hungry most of the time. After a while, everyone’s thoughts turned into finding a way out of the country.

On December 28, 1983, leaving behind my wife and two daughters, I finally left my hometown for good and paid my way onto a boat. During the 14 days at sea, the last 9 days with the boat engine stopped working, thirst and starvation settled in and two people died. Our boat managed to land in Indonesia at last. At Galang’s refugee camp, I had 3 art group shows, taught art to other refugees, and made a 1985 calendar for the camp. I stayed there for 13.5 months before being accepted by the Canadian Delegation. I arrived in Windsor, Ontario on February 28, 1985 as a landed immigrant.

For the first 18 years in Canada, all I did was worked various kinds of jobs to support my family back in Vietnam and to finally be able to bring them over. The time spent in factories emptied my mind of the any traces of art. A lot of trying, frustrating, and struggling times before I found my way back to doing what I like most, which is creating. ‘Beets’ in 2003 marked my first come back painting. All this time while I process my life, a lot of people have passed including my parents, relatives, and friends from back home. It is my hope that my works would express and carry through my thoughts and sympathy for people who have suffered and have been victimized by others.”