ChiBi (Red Cliff) by Hong-Duan Yang.

The Magic Brush is an exhibit of Chinese painting and calligraphy by Hong-Duan Yang, at the Magnuson Park Gallery SPACE.

Hong-Duan Yang was born into an artistic family in China 90 years ago, and was recognized for his talent by the time he was 17. He continues to be dedicated to utilize his creativity and gift of teaching to encourage cultural exchange between China and the West. Mr. Yang is a beloved and generous teacher, with many students in the Puget Sound area, and in many other places, who affectionately call him Master Yang. Mr. Yang’s work is collected in many museums all over the world. Among his many roles, he is consultant to the Senior Professor Association of Chinese Calligraphy and Painting at Beijing University.

The exhibit consists of 40 works of paintings and calligraphy, by my count. It is a good introduction to the various genres of “traditional” (subjects and styles of the early and mid-20rh century) Chinese painting, including landscapes, birds, fish, shrimps, insects, animals, flowers, figures, in both ink and color and just ink. Mr. Yang has chosen to develop these subjects and styles of this era as far as he can. His high level of skill is no doubt honed by years of dedicated practice.

Mr. Yang’s versatility, his ability to paint such a variety of subjects so well, is clearly on display in this crowded exhibit. I do wish that it was less crowded, to allow the art to breathe a little more.

Most of the paintings are created in what may be called an “impressionistic style”, where the brush, ink and color interact with the texture of the paper, capturing the subject in minimal brushstrokes, showcasing the brushwork as well as unexpected effects.

Most of the paintings are sunny and light, a pleasure trip for the eye — shrimp swimming in the implied water (blank space), birds singing in the moonlight, lively animals, delicate and vibrant flowers, atmospheric landscapes. These paintings will bring a smile to your face.

Mr. Yang is well known for his paintings of eagles and swallows, and several larger paintings display these favorite subjects. They capture the eagle as a heroic creature and the swallow as a creature of lightness and playfulness.

A few paintings that stand out for me include a lotus flower and pod in delicate colors, titled “Dream”. Another painting of two birds with unusual expressions sitting on a branch that seems to be melting in the moonlight.

Not to be missed are the four micro paintings with calligraphy, a technique that Mr. Yang is known for. These works are small, featuring small brushstrokes and even smaller calligraphy. The subject matters are drawn from classical Chinese literature like the Peach Blossom Spring, and Odes to the Red Cliff. A visual artist can hardly resist these stories and the evocative names of these places.

Mr. Yang’s paintings are impressive in capturing a lot of details and creating atmosphere far beyond their small size may suggest. Mr. Yang has written the text from these stories on the paper, and the calligraphy is so tiny as to boggle the mind.

The exhibit goes from June 9 to July 27, 2019, and includes a live painting demonstration by Mr. Yang on July 27 (Time TBD). Admission is free. Magnuson Park Gallery SPACE at 7448 63rd Ave. N.E. in Seattle. Go to www.spaceatmagnuson.org for details.

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