"Love ends. But what if it doesn’t?"

Meenakashi Ghadial + Caryn Wei Ya Xie
Main Space
March 5 – May 11, 2024

In "Love ends. But what if it doesn’t?", Meenakashi Ghadial and Caryn Wei Ya Xie share their two distinct emerging artistic practices. Each drawing from extensive family photo archives as a rich source of inspiration for their oil paintings, they both invite us into personal moments that embody their humanness—experiences of loss and denial, love and celebration.

Header Image: Meenakashi Ghadial, Heartbroken in the Driver's Seat 2, 2023, Oil Paint and Graphite on Recycled Metal | Photo: Courtesy of the artist



The paintings featured in "Love ends. But what if it doesn’t?" contextualize my recent experience with both love and loss. Through the depiction of queer joy and heartbreak, as well as memory and grief, I confront my journey with the inevitable pain that accompanies adulthood.

For me, the car represents safety and privacy that lends itself to queer liberation and freedom, but for my mom on her wedding day, it was an agent for patriarchal and heteronormative cultural practices. Mourning Wishes, Gasoline Kisses and Diptych: Embrace depict a combination of photographs from my parents wedding album and more current documentation of my relationship with my parents, grandparents and now ex-partner.

Separating from her only a few months after completing my most monumental work, I endured my first heartbreak as an adult, but with the nuance of it also being queer. My Heartbroken in the Driver’s Seat series acknowledges how my car went from a safe space for shared intimacy to a place for isolated pain.

Now, as I navigate the grief of my grandmother’s passing, I continue to engage with familial documentation. I noticed the sheer volume of birthday photos I came across when selecting images to show at her funeral service. By engaging with these memories, I reflect on both moments gone and moments cherished.


The Bamburgh Circle series centres on my Chinese family’s adoption of the Western birthday ritual. All the paintings are set in the same space—our first shoebox apartment in Markham—across several years in the early 2000s. By emphasizing the birthday tradition, this series reframes the typical, problematic narratives of cultural assimilation into a celebration of how global histories can meld and transform together through the process of migration.

This series’ emphasis on digital elements pokes fun at the techno-Orientalist conception of Asian peoples as robotic, unindividual, and emotionless, as highlighted by the captcha in Big Girl. This is furthered by the Bamburgh Circle painting with its conceptual focus on facial recognition software. It calls to attention the paradox techno-Orientalism projects on us: we are hypervisible as racialized people, yet simultaneously erased of our individual identities.

For many families, a birthday is the most documented event of the year. My family’s own scores of digitized photographs from birthdays represents our attempts to create new artifacts to replace the old ones lost through the process of displacement. To paint these scenes from that archive is to move our history out of an intangible digital space, making a personal legacy—spread across two generations and two continents—finally concrete.


Meenakashi Ghadial (b. 2001) is a visual artist from Brampton, Ontario currently based in Katarokwi/Kingston. She creates representational oil paintings on non-traditional substrates that explore themes of marriage, love, intimacy, grief and sexuality. She presents the car as a multifaceted liminal space that functions as a safe space for her as a queer Punjabi-Canadian woman. Her inspiration draws from personal experience navigating her queer identity as a second-generation immigrant in her family. Through the use of current documentation as well as archival family material, Meenakashi creates narratives that explore the particularities of intergenerational experiences. Ghadial received a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) with a Minor in Art History and is currently working towards her Bachelor of Education at Queen’s University. She is an active member of the Ontario Kingston Women Artists Association, and will be completing her second artist residency in Kingston at the Tett Centre for Creativity and Learning in April where she plans to explore themes of memory, movement, and queerness through more interdisciplinary approaches.

Caryn Wei Ya Xie (b. 2002) is a realism artist from Whitby, Ontario currently based in Katarokwi/Kingston, where she is pursuing her Bachelor of Fine Art (Honours) with a minor in History and a Bachelor of Education at Queen’s University. As a Cantonese Chinese-Canadian painter, Xie’s work satirizes techno-Orientalist rhetoric by appropriating digital aesthetics to reimagine archival family photographs. These digital interventions translate a personal history of immigration into a broader conversation on the diasporic experience of fragmented identity and memory. In doing so, her paintings bring to attention the contrast between the analogue and the digital, the ‘East’ and the ‘West,’ and the past and present. She has exhibited locally at the Window Art Gallery, as well as at the Bevy gallery space in Toronto. The Chinese Neo-Realists, as well as her current professional work as a graphic designer, largely inform her personal visual language and her thematic emphasis on Asian agency and Asian narratives.


Meenakashi: Thank you to the Elizabeth Greenshields Grant for generously funding my thesis work; my advisor, Sylvat Aziz, for being my (unofficial) mentor for life; Modern Fuel Artist-Run Centre, for giving me space to heal post-heartbreak through creative incubation at the Long Days Residency; and The Tett Centre for Creativity and Learning, for the opportunity to spend my last few months in Kingston furthering my body of work in their beautiful and inspiring building.

Caryn: Thank you to Laurel Johannson, the other half of my brain; my advisor, Dan Hughes, for his unwavering faith in me and my work for the past four years; and my parents, for nurturing and supporting my artistic pursuits from the very beginning – everything has always been for you.

UNION GALLERY is funded and supported by Queen's University, Alma Mater Society (AMS), Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS), Ontario Arts Council, City of Kingston Arts Fund–Kingston Arts Council and the City of Kingston, with partnerships with Stauffer Library, Cultural Studies, Screen Cultures and Curatorial Studies, and Art History and Art Conservation.