BY CLAIRE EMIKO FANT
Recent works of two contemporary Chinese artists are being exhibited at Davidson Contemporary in the Tashiro Kaplan Building from Sept. 8 – 30, providing a glimpse into two contrasting visions.
Xiaoze Xie paints in oils. His subject is stacks of newspapers, the transient evidence of human events. Ying-Yueh Chuang sculpts in clay and glaze. Her subject is hybrid plant creatures that emanate from her mind as living beings. Both artists are inspired by different aspects of life in its myriad expressions. The forms they choose to explore and express their particular visions exist at opposite ends of the life spectrum.
Born in China’s Guangdong Province Xiaoze Xie studied architecture and painting in Beijing before moving to Texas where he earned his master’s degree in art from the University of North Texas. He currently teaches at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa. In the paintings showing at the Davidson gallery, Xie continues his fascination with the common, mundane newspaper as the disposable record of daily news — human history. In his forays into the library stacks in the United States and in China, he took photographs from which to work.
The resulting paintings of newspaper stacks are large in format measuring around three by seven feet, so a different perspective is achieved with the stacks being larger than life-size. And although they have a photo-realistic feel to them, the paintings are more than what a photograph alone might reveal. Masterful brushstrokes are evident upon closer inspection, giving the paintings a lively and purposeful expression.
The American newspaper stack paintings are cropped close without background, so the viewer has no choice but to make out partial headlines and photos that are revealed on the folds, as well as the juxtaposition of certain news items such as the war in Iraq and faces of war protestors.
In the paintings of the Chinese newspaper stacks, Xie’s focus shifts from particular news items to the newspaper itself — its form and function. One is faced only with thin stacks in a beautifully rendered monochromatic palette. These paintings are more like conceptual still life. Shelves and background are included in the composition. The newspapers lie in the stillness of limbo, the archives of daily news that was important to print at the time, but now mostly forgotten.
Ying-Yueh Chuang was born in Taiwan and currently resides in Toronto. She received a diploma in fine arts from Langara College in 1997, a bachelor of fine arts from the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in 1999 in Vancouver, B.C., and a master’s degree with a major in ceramics from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 2001.
Bored with the smooth-surfaced symmetrical vessel as an end product, Chuang developed an interest in the concept of hybrids which she applied to her ceramic creations. Inspired by her detailed observation of sea and land plants that she had collected over the years, Chuang creates sculptural hybrid “plant creatures” that convey life at a basic level. The one-of-a-kind plant creature sculptures are bowl-shaped, presenting sculpted intricate symmetrical patterns, textures and colors, like those one finds deep in the center of flowers. Rows of protruding tendrils and conical shapes bring to mind sea life. The glaze work is incredible with bright and pastel colors and crackling textures blending in ways that reveal careful study and planning.
In her “To Be” series, “baby” plant creatures sit in Styrofoam egg crates waving tendrils or opening “mouths,” waiting to grow and reproduce. Also featured is a floor installation where individual creatures sit atop glass rods that are arranged in another pattern that is perhaps the next level up.
Though Xiaoze Xie and Ying-Yueh Chuang share the fact that they are of Chinese heritage and have assimilated the culture of their adopted Western homelands, their artistic explorations are as uniquely original as whom they are as individuals.
Xiaoze Xie’s “New Paintings” and Ying-Yueh Chuang’s “Yuan” are on display at Davidson Contemporary, 310 S.Washington St., Seattle, (206) 624.7684.