journey to the west:
works on paper by three chinese sisters
From Middle Kingdom to the mid-America, three sisters Ling, Bo and Hong have made the physical and spiritual journey through the Chinese and American cultural landscape. Although all three were born and raised in an artistic family in the north eastern city of Shenyang, they have each found their own home in Georgia, Kansas and Illinois. Despite the distance, they remain linked through their art work and cultural heritage. The deep connection between the three Zhang sisters symbolizes their own triad: unity of mind, body and spirit.
In this exhibition, the sisters share the common bond of nature, Hong’s Kansas inspired landscape painting and drawing, Bo’s Tree Bark mixed media series and Ling’s five elements of works on paper mounted on canvas.
I combine traditional skill with new concepts and draws from my own experiences and observations in China as well as the United States. The result is work produced on a massive scale with fine details. My signature works are black and white charcoal drawings that are based around the idea of hair and explore my identity as Chinese American woman, a sister and a mother. Recent small drawings and paintings are inspired by the nature of my Kansas home. I combine long hair with mid-west landscape such as tornado, flint-hill, Kansas prairie to show the dramatic and peaceful nature of the great plain.
Nature has been the profound inspiration for my art. I am fascinated by the unique patterns, textures and forms that natural objects present such as trees bark, leaves and so on. In my recent mixed media paintings, I create close-up views of tree bark to reveal the beauty beneath the surface. Tree bark is like the human skin, fragile but strong. This same essence has been used in traditional Chinese paper making. The tearing, cutting, gluing and mounting process is very similar to my work process which is involved with Chinese painting and printmaking techniques. I also attached found object (dry moss) to the painting surface and create a three-dimensional look.
Metal, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth are the ancient framework for everything in the universe. Like the Yin and the Yang, they are interconnected in both harmony and discord, one element feeds the next while being unraveled by another. In Chinese culture the Five Elements represent the complex struggles both within us and throughout the universe. A forest requires water to grow, but only as much as the trees can utilize. By observing nature, we can adjust our own inner struggle to balance these elements and maintain physical and spiritual strength.
I believe life is full of mysteries. This is especially true in nature, and we all experience it in our own way. The Five Elements series is also a mystery. Is nature in a state of healing or decay or both? Each day we adjust our own elemental canvas to fit our needs. We grow the forest or nurture the sapling from the ashes. Every particle of our being seems balance and magnifies the profundity of life.
The youngest sister Hong completed her BFA in Chinese Ink Painting from Beijing Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1994 and a MFA from University of California Davis in 2004. She lives and works in Lawrence Kansas and has been represented byHaw Contemporary in Kansas City since 2015. For the past 20 years, Hong has received many significant grants and residencies including Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture Summer Residency in 2003 and Scuola Internazionale di Graficain Venice Italy 2015. The Dedalus Foundation Master of Fine Arts Fellowship in 2004 and the Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant in 2006. Since then her work has been collected and exhibited at prestigious venues such as The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC, Asia Society Texas Center in Houston, Japanese American National museum in Los Angeles, San Francisco Chinese Culture Center, BRIC Rotunda Gallery in NY, Contemporary Museum of Art Norway in Oslo, Central Museum in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Her work is also in the permanent collections of the Spencer Museum of Art at University of Kansas and The Ulrich Museum of Art at Wichita State University as well as in the private collections of contemporary Chinese art such as White Rabbit Museum in Sydney, DSL collection in Paris and The Ink Studio in Beijing.
The ten minutes older twin Bo received her B.F.A in Printmaking from Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing (1994) and a M.F.A from Emest G. Welch School of Art & Design at Georgia State University in Atlanta (2004). She currently lives and works in Schaumburg, Illinois. Bo has exhibited her works nationally and internationally at numerous venues includingNational Museum of Art, Beijing, China; The 9th Shanghai Art Biennial, Shanghai, China; Evanston Art Center, Chicago; The Art Center Highland Park, Chicago; Lightwell Gallery at University of Oklahoma School of Art & Art History, Norman; University Library Gallery at California State University, Sacramento; Whitespace Gallery, Atlanta and Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, GA. Her works are in the public collections of Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University ofOregon (Portland), College of Art & Sciences at Clayton State University (Atlanta), the Ministry of Culture of China (Beijing) and The Printmaking department of Central Academy of Fine Arts (Beijing). She was a resident artist at Vermont Studio Center in 2018.
The oldest sister Ling currently resides in Atlanta. She received both BFA and MFA degrees at Central Institute of Nationalities in Beijing China from 1981-1987. In 1988, after graduation, she had a successful exhibition at China Museum of Fine Art in Beijing. The exhibition was well received, and she was granted a visa to the US in 1988 and invited by Signet Fine Art, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Governor of the state of Illinois for the exhibition of “The Selected Contemporary Oil Paintings from China”. Since then, her work has been exhibited in Asia, Europe and North America such as The National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Artists in Residence International at Berlin, Munich, Frankford in Germany and Newcastle in UK, City Exhibition Center at La Croix Valmer in France, Arts & Culture Center de Vilanova, Barcelona in Spain, Williamsburg Art Center in New York and the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center. She also joined twin sisters for the “Three Sisters Show” at the University of Oklahoma’s Lightwell Gallery, Sacramento State University Gallery, Malone Gallery of Troy University in Alabama, Lamar Dodd Art Center of LaGrange College and Cochran Gallery, Whitespace in Atlanta, Sakata Gallery in Sacramento.