Toronto specializing in contemporary photography

Philip Cheung: The Edge

Philip Cheung, "Lifeboats, Al Jaddaf, Dubai," 2015, from 'The Edge'
Philip Cheung, “Lifeboats, Al Jaddaf, Dubai,” 2015


New exhibition offers a contemporary look at the rapidly changing coastal landscape of the United Arab Emirates

Toronto, ON, January 4, 2017Circuit Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of ten large-scale photographs by Philip Cheung from The Edge, a new project that follows the 1300 km coastline of the United Arab Emirates looking at the region’s rapid development and transformation.

As Cheung Explains:

The United Arab Emirates is a country in a state of constant geopolitical change. Once an obscure Gulf nation, the UAE has, in just 40 years, emerged from the desert sands. Substantial economic growth resulting from the discovery of major oil and gas reserves off the coast of Abu Dhabi have transformed the formerly semi-nomadic Bedouin society into a thriving localized culture, anchored in international business, tourism, and luxury

Significant urban and industrial development has attracted migrant workers, business people, consumers, and tourists from all around the world. Expatriates now make up 85 percent of the population in the major urban centers of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. As a result, the cultural identity of the Emirates as a whole is evolving through a constant influx of foreign influences.

The Edge is a continuation of Cheung’s successful project Desert Dreams which offered a modern portrait of the Emirates and its negotiation of a relationship between traditional culture and lifestyle and the new cosmopolitan aspirations afforded by massive wealth, intense urbanization, and economic development. With this new work Cheung turns his attention to the landscape and to the varied activities taking place along the coast. In these photographs he’s looking at the expression of these changes and ambitions through the built environment, architecture, infrastructure, and indeed the use of space—the spaces various people occupy, from local Emirati’s to Western expats and migrant labourers, and the distance between co-existing and contrasting worlds.

As Leo Hsu astutely writes, in his essay accompanying the exhibition:

Cheung’s photographs are powerful because, beyond surveying, or describing, they suggest the seeming necessity of the present moment, which in his graceful compositions feels both inevitable and eternal. At the same time, they underscore the moment’s contingency—the feeling that the cultural features on display, functions of power, economics and globalization, look so specific, when seen in the context of the landscape that has made this wealth and power possible. Where nature cannot but look as it does, the built environment betrays human ambition in the way that it assumes its specific forms. The success of Cheung’s photographs is its evocation of the tension between these two imperatives.

Philip Cheung is a Canadian photographer with experience in various forms of photography who, since 2007, has worked extensively in the Middle East, particularly the United Arab Emirates. In recent years, his personal work has focused on research and exploration of issues of citizenship, capital, labour and industrialization through a layered approach of natural and urban landscapes and portraiture.

Cheung’s work has been exhibited in galleries, museums and festivals across North America and Europe, including The National Portrait Gallery (London, UK), the Lumix Festival (Hanover, DE) and the Flash Forward Festival (Toronto, CA), and has appeared in features and reviews in The British Journal of Photography, CNN, Boston Review and TIME, among others. Clients include The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian Weekend Magazine, Stern, The Independent Magazine, The New York Times, Der Spiegel, Le Monde and Wallpaper*.

In 2011 Cheung was named one of PDN’s 30 top emerging photographers, and in 2016 he was selected for the Canadian Forces Artist Program by the Directorate History and Heritage to continue a series that examines military culture in Canada’s post-Afghanistan military. He is currently based in Los Angeles and Toronto.

Leo Hsu is a writer, researcher and photographer based in Toronto. He is a regular contributor to Fraction Magazine and holds a PhD in Anthropology and Certificate in Culture and Media from New York University.

Philip Cheung: The Edge runs January 12 through February 4, at Circuit Gallery @ Prefix ICA, with an opening reception on Friday, January 13, from 6-9 p.m.. The artist is in attendance.

Philip Cheung

The Edge

January 12 – February 4, 2017
Circuit Gallery @ Prefix ICA
401 Richmond Street West, Suite 124
Toronto, ON, M6R 2G5
[ Google Map ]

Opening Reception: Friday, January 13, 6-9 p.m.
Gallery Hours:
Tuesday – Saturday, 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Philip Cheung, "Friday, Fujairah," 2014, from 'The Edge'
Philip Cheung, “Friday, Fujairah,” 2014
Philip Cheung, "Roundabout, Khor Fakkan, Sharjah," 2014, from 'The Edge'
Philip Cheung, “Roundabout, Khor Fakkan, Sharjah,” 2014
Philip Cheung The Edge Circuit Gallery
Installation view of Philip Cheung’s solo exhibition “The Edge” at Circuit Gallery @ Prefix ICA, Toronto, Canada (January 12 – February 4, 2017)

Visit Circuit Gallery for more information and to see more images:

Circuit Gallery specializes in contemporary photography. Established in 2008 by Susana Reisman and Claire Sykes, the Toronto based commercial gallery represents both emerging and established Canadian and international artists.


Phone: 647-477-2487


Leave a Reply