Two Nemeses Pass in the Day

Collision Gallery, Toronto, ON

2022 

Inside the old CIBC building across the courtyard from Collision Gallery in Toronto's Financial District, there is a painted mural of a Chinese Opium War era ship. Painted sometime in the 1930s, the mural wrongly labels the boat on display as “THE STEAMSHIP NEMESIS 1841 IN THE CHINESE TRADE”. Nemesis, in fact, was the only warship ever owned outright by the English East India Company, and was known by the local Chinese as the “Devil Ship” for its ability to travel up river and destroy villages. The 1930s mural painter Arthur Crisp replaced the true Nemesis with not only the wrong ship, but its target of colonial expansion.


This window-mounted cutout mirrors that mural. Its green colour references the metal halide archival bulbs that light it. Around 12:30 pm on sunny days, sunlight reflects off the building and casts a green shadow on the gallery floor. The black floor drawing replaces the fictional Chinese warship with a silhouette of the real Nemesis, momentarily bridging the gap between Commonwealth propaganda art, and historical reality.

Photographs of the inside of the lobby of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce building (Commerce Court North), 25 King St. West, Toronto, Canada.