Hold Everything Dear

Shannon Pawliw

Hold Everything Dear - by Shannon Pawliw

“To be hopeful means to be uncertain about the future, to be tender toward possibilities, to be dedicated to change all the way down to the bottom of your heart. Hold everything dear.”

– John Berger

Hold Everything Dear is an exhibition inspired by a collection of essays of the same name, by art theorist and intellectual, John Berger. The painted and sculptural works confront the unsettling reality that our world is increasingly shaped by the relentless pursuit of profit and efficiency. At the heart of these images lies an exploration of the intersection of human vulnerability and the mechanization of life. The artist’s hands, which serve as their primary tools for creative expression, take on a profound role. These hands, the very instruments through which the artist shapes their vision, are the central focus.

Several pieces are a ‘collaboration’ between professional Chinese artists and Pawliw. These works, depicting the artist’s own hands, were commissioned and then later embellished by Pawliw. Commissioning distant artists symbolizes our dependence on a global economy and is a recognition of how even the most intimate aspects of artistic expression can be outsourced, automated, and delivered from afar.

Another central motif is the lit match, simultaneously symbolic of both dread and survival. The match is juxtaposed with an unexpected element – the hands that cradle it. The matches are reminders of the precariousness of human agency in a world driven by remote decision-makers who prioritize cost over human dignity. Viewers are invited to contemplate the dissonance between the personal and the distant, as they grapple with the fearsome idea that even their very identities can be outsourced, and their stories rewritten.


​Shannon Pawliw (she/her) is a Canadian artist known for her abstract paintings and thought-provoking conceptual installations. Her work is colourful, immersive, bold and rooted in organic forms and expressive gestures.

Pawliw embarks on exploratory series driven by her fascination with a myriad of ideas, practices, and concepts. From the realms of time and memory to artistic labour and the microbial world, her creations evolve into fantastical objects that blend imagination with reality. At the core of her artistic endeavours lies a profound inclination to observe, romanticize, and fantasize about various facets of our shared humanity and collective experiences.

In addition to her artistic practice, Pawliw is the Artistic Director and founder of THIS Gallery. 

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THIS Gallery acknowledges that it is situated on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples–Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations.

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