where two rivers meet
November 15 – December 20, 2019
Opening Reception: Saturday, November 16, 2 – 5pm
“The Chinese seeds of my art, rooted for fifteen years in Canadian soil, push their way up through the woven layers of my identity as a first-generation Chinese-Canadian. As these seeds push through the complexities of my immigrant experience into the creative work of my art, they become a bi-cultural lens of the natural world for what its like to balance between two cultures.” – Xiaojing Yan
Lonsdale Gallery presents where two rivers meet, a two-floor solo exhibition by award winning artist Xiaojing Yan. From intricate sculptures and installations that are monumental in scale to intimate sized works on paper, this exhibition explores the confluence between the natural world and modes of cultural exchange. Akin to two flowing bodies of water that intersect and merge into a singular dynamic current, Yan’s creative practice blends traditional Chinese materials and techniques with contemporary aesthetics and presentation.
Yan’s creative practice expresses a depth of meaning and thought, through her fluid use of imagery and rich surface treatment. Employing unconventional materials in unique and unexpected ways – such as, freshwater pearls, linghzi mushrooms, or pine needles – Yan draws on these reoccurring motifs to explore how forces of nature, inherent within traditional Chinese art, transcends culture. Trained in both the East and the West, Yan has cultivated a distinctive artistic vision that highlights what it means to thrive between two cultures.
In Spirit Cloud, thousands of luminous freshwater pearls are suspended from clear filaments; evoke otherworldly cloud formations and scholar’s stones.Created from 33,000 freshwater pearls, which reference the shape of lingzhi mushrooms and smoke, explores themes of duality, and the tension between ephemerality and permanence. Clouds formed by thousands of shimmering dots materialize like a three dimensional pointillist painting free floating in space. In Cloud Cell, over 13,000 freshwater pearls are arranged into a sumptuous curvilinear form. The shape references scholar’s stones, an object of reverence and a symbol of wisdom in China; and mushrooms clouds through its spectral qualities, which imbue it with disarming sense of destruction and beauty.
Lingzhi mushrooms, a rare mushroom with deep roots in Chinese mythology and medicine, are a symbol of immortality and longevity. Yan creative investigation of the materiality and mythology of the Lingzhi mushrooms are woven through a number of her works as a means of exploring themes of growth, adaptation, and renewal. In Far From Where You Divined, the artist explores the natural growth cycles of these unique mushroom by creating a series of near life-sized sculptures of a young girl, a deer, and a group of rabbits, fashioned entirely from cultivated Lingzhi mushrooms and wood chips. Spores are planted inside molds where they are exposed to moisture to encourage root growth. Assorted fledgling and mature Linghzi can be see sprouting forth from the forms. Over time, the mushrooms release more spores, coating the sculptures a delicate brown hued powder. Yan extends her material exploration in her Lingzhi Mushroom Paintings, creating three-dimensional ‘living’ paintings with textured creamy golden and brown hued surfaces. In spite of being constrained into a rigid form, young mushroom sprouts can be seen growing outwards from the sides, highlight their extraordinary adaptability and resilience.
Yan draws deep connections between these rare mushrooms – their forms and materiality – and her own lived experiences. Yan’s Linghzi Girl, a female bust cast in bronze and finished with a rich green patina, captures the life cycle of the Linghzi. Immortalized in bronze, the sculpture highlights the paradox between life and death. Her deliberate blending of the female form with nature, reworks these traditional symbols to construct innovative contemporary forms. In Lingzhi, a wall installation made up of dozens of individually cast bronze mushrooms in varied sizes, which cascade across and grow out from the wall. Here, Yan uses the mushrooms as a visual reminder about the sense of loss felt by being separated from loved ones often experience of the Chinese diaspora.
In her Naturally Natural series, the artist takes on an exploration of duality and chance. Diaphanous networks of fine lines blossom across the surface of paper to create elegant expressive compositions that abstract images recalling root systems, nerve clusters, rivers, and coastlines. Combining the organic properties of the sumi ink with contemporary synthetic, yupo paper, Chinese artistic traditions and Western abstract expressionism; Yan highlights and reflects on the importance that hybridity plays in her practice.
Yan’s work is a celebration of the transformative qualities of art – its ability to express bold new visions and communicate cross-culturally. The artist approaches the creative process with a joyful sense of curiosity, allowing new ideas and forms to reveal themselves during the act of creation. This synergy between her chosen materials becomes an expressive devise that the artist uses to reaffirm and revisit her own identity as a first generation Canadian. She explains, “as an artist migrating from China to North America, both my identity and my work pass through the complex filters of different countries, languages, and cultural expectations.” Likewise, Yan’s work can be seen as a visual expression of the confluence of two cultures; when combined they become a catalyst for inciting a dialogue about sense of place, identity, and temporality.