By Albert Leung, Staff Writer

11_photod_bamboo_paintingweb

Traditional Chinese brushwork to Hong Zhang is not solely an artistic expression involving Chinese history and prose. It is merely a channel, a means, an art form where life, cultures and personal histories can be depicted. Zhang teaches his students to not only master the traditional brushwork techniques but to also explore how to apply it for expressing their individuality and backgrounds. He tells his students to infuse their own culture, history and passion into their pieces. By Albert Leung, Staff Writer

Traditional Chinese brushwork to Hong Zhang is not solely an artistic expression involving Chinese history and prose. It is merely a channel, a means, an art form where life, cultures and personal histories can be depicted. Zhang teaches his students to not only master the traditional brushwork techniques but to also explore how to apply it for expressing their individuality and backgrounds. He tells his students to infuse their own culture, history and passion into their pieces.

Throughout the month of March, Zhang and 11 of his students exhibited their talents and labors at the Bloomington Art Center. Choosing a mix of Caucasian and American-born Chinese students, Zhang held his first art exhibition with his protégées together. The showcase, Chi: Capturing the Spirit, ran from February 27 to April 3, 2009. The goal was to see what each of his students could accomplish based on their unique personal backgrounds.

Students featured in the exhibition included Paula Mason, Ming Lin, Joan Weber, Ye Lisi, Bob Schmitt, Irene Sukee Wong, Julia Wong, Mary Kwan, Sandy Kwan, Kitty Matthews and Joanne Ke-Eng Liu. The paternalistic teacher was more thrilled to showcase the work of his pupils rather than his own. Zhang fondly expressed gratification for his students' dedication and work they displayed.

“I am very proud of my students and was excited to see their work in the gallery. For many of them this was their first art exhibition,” Zhang gleamed.

Trained at the Shanghai Fine Arts Institute, Zhang taught for many years in China before relocating to Minnesota. Upon his arrival, he first started teaching a group of American- born Chinese students and a college course at the University of Minnesota where he taught Caucasian students. His teaching career spans nearly 15 years.

“My goal as a teacher is to not only teach them how to correctly use the brush but also how to use their inner energy through practice,” Zhang said. “I want my students to appreciate Chinese culture and this difficult writing (style).”

Throughout his teaching career, Zhang has also preached the extended benefits through studying traditional Chinese brushwork form. For example, to show how concentration learned through calligraphy can help students' in their studies, he asked two younger pupils to participate in the exhibit, eighth grader Julia Wong and high school junior Ming Lin.

Mary Kwan, 23, a Zhang protégé for about 10 years, was one of the 11 students featured in the exhibition. For Kwan, Zhang's lessons have more than allowed her to connect to her Chinese roots artistically, but also inspire her to apply these teachings in her life as well.

“Chinese calligraphy is not only about the art but also the culture, language and history,” Kwan said. “I once told my teacher that he has not only taught me how to make strong brush strokes, but he has taught me to take these bold moves and carry it into my life.”

The exhibition served as an opportunity for Kwan to admire all the hard work and memorable pieces that she and her fellow students have created over the years. With each piece, she described, she reflects on the stories behind how it came to be. With every name of the artist she saw inscribed on the gallery walls filled her with pride.

“I am very happy and grateful to be part of a great exhibition with such exquisite artists,” Kwan said. “The work by my teacher and fellow classmates amazes me everyday and I am so impressed by the works that were displayed.”

Terms Of Use

Terms of Use All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without prior written permission of the publisher. For permission requests, contact [email protected] with subject line “Permission request.”

About

CHINAINSIGHT (CI) is published monthly ((except July/August and November/December are combined) by China Insight, Inc., an independent, privately owned company started in 2001 and headquartered in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota.

CHINAINSIGHT is the only English-language American newspaper to focus exclusively on connections between the United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Our goal is to develop a mutual understanding of each other’s cultures and business environments and to foster U.S.-China cultural and business harmony.