Show contrasts Lu Yansheng with Chinese American art

By Andrew Hamlin
Northwest Asian Weekly

Chinese art is on display through Nov. 2 at the Kirkland Arts Center. (Image from Kirkland Arts Center)

“Observations From The New Gold Mountain,” the new exhibit at the Kirkland Arts Center, contrasts the work of celebrated Chinese painter Lu Yansheng with works from local Chinese American artists. The idea was conceived by curator Cheryll Leo-Gwin.

“I am a fourth-generation Chinese American artist,” said Leo-Gwin, “who has been asked numerous times if my scrolls and calligraphy can be seen anywhere. The assumption is that artists with a Chinese heritage only make traditional Chinese art. I have traveled to China many times and have met artists there who make contemporary art. I felt this exhibit would help break the old stereotype of Chinese artists making Chinese art.”

The show’s concept began with the work of Lu Yansheng from Beijing, Leo-Gwin said. “He is a close friend and colleague whose contemporary work I admire. It occurred to me that he should meet artists from a Chinese heritage living and working in the U.S. doing contemporary art.”

Leo-Gwin said she believed Yansheng’s work stems from his traditional Chinese studies and training, yet is also impacted by his exposure to and subsequent isolation from the west. “When China was closed to the west, Lu’s exposure to the west was limited to the art that he could find from Russia. His experiences as a young artist during the Cultural Revolution had a profound influence in his work. The thread of that early exposure to the west is a constant. His experience as a Chinese citizen remains a constant in how he sees his world. Lu’s isolation from western thought during his early years had a profound impact in his life and art. His ability to follow his own path, combining eastern tradition with western thought is obvious in his work.”

Exhibits Coordinator Anna Braden sees similarities between Chinese American artists and Lu Yansheng’s work. “Despite not knowing each other or seeing Yansheng’s work ahead of time, there are many parallels between his pieces and those of the local artists included in the exhibition. Similar subject matter and composition are reflected in Yansheng and [Kathy] Liao’s work, while the color palettes in Yansheng’s floral prints are almost identical to [Barry] Wong’s photography.”

The exhibit contains 42 pieces, including  jewelry by Lily Lui, mixed media by Kathy Liao, kiln-formed glass pieces by MalPina Chan, photography by Barry Wong, photographs of jewelry by Ron Ho, mixed media Alan Lau, and prints and original oil paintings by Yansheng.

“‘Observations from the New Gold Mountain’ says it all,” said Leo-Gwin. “During the Gold Rush the Chinese looked across the ocean at America and named it the ‘Gold Mountain.’ I want the exhibition to allow all of the artists to look back from the Gold Mountain to where their ancestors originated and to exhibit their work in unison.” (end)

“Observations From The New Gold Mountain” shows through Nov. 2 at the Kirkland Arts Center, located at 620 Market Street in Kirkland. For more information, call 425.822.7161 or visit http://www.kirklandartscenter.org/?q=content/observations-new-gold-mountain.

Andrew Hamlin can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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