A group of Asian artists who are part of a residency program in Poughkeepsie exhibited their work at Arts Mid-Hudson (formerly Dutchess Arts Council) with an opening on January 9.
The program, China Arts Link, sponsors artists, writers, curators and even critics from Asian countries to be able to live and work the mid-Hudson valley region for one to three months. The artists are able to rent studio space from Art Centro in Poughkeepsie for as little as $150-250 a month.
We met an array of artists from Korea and China and even an art critic from Seoul, who writes for the magazine, Art Monthly, as well as several artists from Beijing and Asian artists who have been educated in the U.S.
Zheng Xuewu, founder with Guo XinXin of China Arts Link (inspired by the Beijing Studio Center) was one of the artists featured. His work is black and white acrylic on canvas with mountain motifs. He said he is inspired by ancient Chinese folk art which he fears is disappearing amidst the pressures of influences from the West. Mr. Zheng said he would like to draw from the legacy of classical Chinese art and put it into a modern context. Several other of the artists spoke of drawing their inspiration from traditional designs and the artistic lineage of the Far East.
This classic legacy shows up in their work which embodies a feeling of nostalgia that is almost devotional with mandalas, misty clouds, bent trees and zen-like simplicity.
Hayoon Jay Lee who studied at the Maryland College of Art created a mandala out of 24-karat gold-leafed rice grains which she intricately placed in concentric circles on wooden boards with tweezers. She often works with food in her work and that she sees the grains as a vast mandala of humanity who interconnect in ever-varying concatenations.
"She said: “I am constantly reflecting upon rhythms in nature. I choose the shape of a circle to convey the idea that there is no beginning and no end in life. Each grain of rice has it's own world that it’s own unique universe, and creates it's own patterns and rhythms just like humans.”
Two other artists also featured circular moon-like shapes in their work. Amy Cheng said she started making mandala-like paintings in 2009 but did not think of them as mandalas. "The mandala is a container of essence that can be understood as an abstracted representation of the universe."
Yong Liu, whose mystical mixed media piece with a moon-like image and its shadow in glass, ink and wood showing with what look like tiny tadpoles swimming over a background in the style of traditional landscape brush paintings. His artists statement explains thus: “the inner working make life seem hard to be simple, in a world without a beginning and end; all things on earth take their own path in the river of life.”
Shuiyang Liu, who has studios in Beijing and New York, exhibited an aluminum sculpture of his own face made from rubbings onto the metal. He told us that the mask-like aspect to the piece represents the anonymity of life in such a large society as China and the difficulty of being able to breathe in Beijing.
Another Korean artist, Kyung Han Kim, handstitched dyed canvas to create delicate strings of lines, broken up and solid, which he said was his interpretation of what he understands and does not understand when reading the newspaper in the west. He said he feels blocked by language.
Linda Marston-Reid, Executive Director of Arts Mid-Hudson told us that the Asian Influence exhibit was a year in the planning. "Arts Mid-Hudson is pleased to bring together artists from different countries showing diverse artworks that respond to Asian culture."
The exhibit can be seen at Arts Mid-Hudson, 696 Dutchess Turnpike, www.artsmidhudson.org, will continue through January 31.
Interview with Hayoon Jay Lee: