Inks on rice paper painted by Alex Wang
By Caroline Ho, Arts Editor
Fluid inks in smooth brushstrokes sweep across the walls of the Amelia Douglas Gallery in its newest exhibition, Etherealize, featuring the works of Burnaby-based artist Alex Wang (Wang Zhihao).
Etherealize, which opened on March 1, is a collection of figure paintings in the style of traditional Chinese painting. Made through ink washes on large sheets of rice paper (or Xuan paper), the seemingly-simple shades of black and grey flow across the canvases in rich, dynamic shapes and lines.
“Xuan paper has a characteristic: It is to record every stroke of ink and water,” Wang said in the exhibition’s artist statement. This irreversibility gives each piece a vivacious, ephemeral quality. All were painted from live models, Wang told the Other Press at the show’s opening reception, and all were completed fairly quickly.
“Every picture, you just spend 10 minutes, or at maximum 20 minutes. You have to finish it, and some pictures you draw [are] not successful and you fail,” said Wang.
Though Etherealize showcases 20 works, these are selected from hundreds of similar paintings that Wang has done.
The exhibition opening also featured Wang himself giving a live demonstration of his work, painting a colourful portrait of two young girls at the reception, in front of an audience of captivated watchers.
Wang said he isn’t nervous about painting in front of a crowd, but he does find it tiring to work on such a large canvas and having to move up and down the paper. However, he said he also finds it very exciting.
Wang has exhibited at the Amelia Douglas Gallery previously, with a solo exhibition called Alternating Seasons in 2010. In his previous Douglas show he used a different type of paper, allowing him to create more detailed works, such as intricate illustrations of trees—some examples are currently on display in the gallery.
“This time it’s raw rice paper, so it’s hard to control the colour, but the first exhibition it [was] easy to control the colour, and then you can draw more detail,” he said. “This is the difference, and this time it’s freestyle.”
Since the works of Etherealize are quick studies, Wang is also happy to donate most of the proceeds from the exhibition back to Douglas. The paintings are on sale for $100 each, and a generous portion of this price will go towards scholarships and other funding for student education.
The Amelia Douglas Gallery is located on the fourth floor of the New Westminster campus, and Etherealize will be open until April 21.