Ottawa Art Gallery: A Visit to the OAG

The video and photos are from a trip to the Ottawa Art Gallery ( in the summer of 2018.

The Ottawa Art Gallery

As Ottawa is Canada’s capital, it is already home to large museums such as the National Gallery of Canada. To set itself apart, the Ottawa Art Gallery (OAG) focuses on artwork with a local or regional connection—works by local artists, works inspired by the city or region and works donated by local collectors.

The Ottawa Art Gallery is a small, non-profit organization founded in 1988 by a group of local artists and community leaders. It moved to new, greatly-expanded premises in April, 2018. The artwork is arranged thematically, so you can often find works with wildly contrasting styles next to each other. Here are some of the works featured in the video.

Max Deen & Eliza Griffiths

The video opens with British artist Max Deen’s mixed-media work Waiting for the Tooth Fairy.

Max Deen: Waiting for the Toothfairy (2009, mixed media)

This piece was inspired the artist’s experiences with brutal ice storm that hit Ottawa in 1998. While driving during the storm, he came across a fallen tree. He connected this image to memories of his relationship with his late mother, with the fallen tree on the mattress representing her absence and the area below the mattress (a space filled with toy trucks) representing childhood, a bright and playful place where one may be unaware of things going on outside that safe little zone. He discusses this piece in this video from the OAG

Next to Deen’s work was a portrait by Montreal-based artist and former Ottawa resident Eliza Griffiths:

Eliza Griffiths: Incitement (Kirk Douglas Pose) (2003, oil on canvas)

Isah Qumalu Sivurapi & Norval Morrisseau

Scattered throughout the gallery are works by indigenous artists. This soapstone sculpture entitled Ijitualik (meaning One-Eyed Figure) is particularly striking.

Isah Qumalu Sivurapi: Ijitualik (1969, soapstone)

The artist, Isah Qumalu Sivurapi, is from the  community of Puvirnituq, on the northeast coast of Hudson Bay in Nunavik (Northern Quebec). Members of this small community of around 1200 people were encouraged to develop their artistic talents and are now well known for their Inuit sculptures and prints. The above artwork focuses on a mythological being, something that falls into the category of takushurnaituk—meaning ‘things never seen before’.

Another work dealing with the theme of mythological beings is Anishinaabe artist Norval Morrisseau’s painting of Thunderbird, a powerful spirit capable of controlling the weather and influencing the destinies of people

Norval Morrisseu: Thunderbird (c. 1962, enamel and ink on paper)

The Group of Seven

The paintings in the next section of the video are from the Firestone Collection of Canadian Art. These works were donated by the descendants of an avid art collector in the city—Otto Jack Firestone.

Lawren Harris: Mount Thule, Bylot Island (oil on canvas)

Among the paintings on display were works by Group of Seven members such as A. Y. Jackson, Franklin Carmichael, Lawren Harris and A. J. Casson as well as their contemporaries such as Yvonne McKague Housser and Carl Schaefer. These highly influential Canadian landscape artists were inspired by Ontario’s rugged wilderness and rural tranquility and by the icy majesty of the Far North. Together, the artists helped establish an identifiably Canadian painting style during the 1920s and 1930s.

A. Y. Jackson: Hills, Lake Superior (1922, oil on canvas)
Franklin Carmichael: The Nickel Belt (1928, oil on canvas)
A. J. Casson: Parry Sound (1927, oil on canvas)
Yvonne McKague Housser: High Water, Bancroft (1933, oil on canvas)

Jack Shadbolt & Alfred Pellan

I love the vibrant colors and energetic composition of these paintings by Vancouver-based artist Jack Shadbolt and Alfred Pellan, an important figure in Quebecois art. In Shabolt’s painting Mountain Summer, the brownish hues of the mountain rocks are nearly lost amidst the riotous colors of flowers and butterflies—an explosion of life during the short, but intense Canadian summer.

Jack Shadbolt: Mountain Summer (1974, latex, ink, wax crayon on rag paper)

Alfred Pellan’s ode to fall is more abstract, evoking the colors and energy of the harvest season and its autumn leaves.

Alfred Pellan: Automne (1959, oil on panel)

Representations of Geography by Leslie Reid, Meredith Snider,  Barry Ace, Jenny McMaster, Alexander Laquerre & Jason St-Laurent

Many Canadian artists are inspired by the country’s landscapes and geography. Perhaps this is because the country is so massive and much of the national identity is tied to the land—the coasts, the prairies, the Rockies, the Arctic, the Canadian Shield and other prominent geographical features.

Leslie Reid’s photo collage Flight Line: Erasure pays homage to her father and to the land. The work is composed of images of the Ottawa region and of the Far North that were taken from the air and on the ground between 1930 and 2017. Many of the aerial photos were taken by the artist’s father, whose work with the Royal Canadian Air Force. involved mapping northern regions of the country as part of government plans to develop those regions. All these things are in the photos—aerial mapping, Northern communities, government offices and views of the city.

Leslie Reid: Flight Line: Erasure (2017, digital prints on aluminum)
Leslie Reid: Flight Line: Erasure (detail view, 2017, digital prints on aluminum)

Meredith Snider’s painting Mind Map Ottawa: Five Cardinal Points represents the artist’s memories of the routes she took during a series of drives from downtown Ottawa. She traveled approximately 100 kilometers in each direction (North, South, East and West).

Meredith Snider: Mind Map Ottawa: Five Cardinal Points (2013, graphite and ink on paper, Stonehenge paper hand-sewn with thread)

Barry Ace’s mixed media works are honor blankets for each of the five Great Lakes (only three are shown in the photo).

Barry Ace: three of a series of five artworks depicting the great lakes: Gichi-zaaga’igan (Big Lake: Lake Ontario), Gichi-aazhoogami-gichigami (Great Crosswater Sea: Lake Huron) and Anishinaabewi-gichigami (Anishinaabeg Sea: Lake Superior) (2016, mixed media)

The works are created from Hudson’s Bay blankets, which have a long history in Canada and were often used by the Hudson’s Bay Company when trading with indigenous fur trappers. Thus, as heritage symbols, they are complicated—they are associated with the settling of the nation as well as with 19th century colonialism and capitalism. You can read this Mental Floss article for more information: A Brief History of Canada’s Iconic Hudson’s Bay Blanket

The decorations on the blanket are made from things like:

  • traditional materials like horse hair;
  • silver dollars (the design of the coins honor indigenous people, but the coins can also represent commercial power and nation-building, things which helped marginalize these same people )
  • electronic components like diodes, resistors and and microchips, which represent technology—technology that can help preserve indigenous cultures and can also erode them.
Barry Ace: detail view of Anishinaabewi-gichigami

Thus, the blankets not only represent the Great Lakes, but also the forces (trade, colonialism, capitalism, nation-building and technology) that have buffeted indigenous cultures in Canada. Barry Ace discusses his work and creative processes in this video from the OAG:

Local artist Jenny McMaster has produced a series of mixed-media maps of nearby areas. The map below shows the town of Almonte. You can see more of her work at her website:

Jenny McMaster: In the Neighbourhood (2016, mixed media: handmade paper, pulp painting and emboidery)

In the silkscreen print shown below, Alexander Laquerre has created the shape of each local Ottawa-Gatineau neighborhood from its name.

Alexander Laquerre: Ottawa-Gatineau Neighbourhoods Map, 3rd edition (silkscreen print). Ottawa Art Gallery

Laquerre also creates drawings celebrating Ottawa’s iconic architecture, and his drawings of the Parliament Buildings, Alexandra Bridge and the Chateau Laurier appear near the end of the video.

Jason St-Laurent’s sculpture 196 Nations in Order of Size is exactly what the title says. Blocks representing each member country in the United Nations are stacked on top of one another from the floor to the ceiling.

Jason St-Laurent: 196 Nations in Order of Size (2018, mixed media). Ottawa Art Gallery

Interestingly, the blocks can be removed and re-arranged just in case countries break apart, grow or cease to exist.

Jason St-Laurent: 196 Nations in Order of Size (2018, mixed media)

World War II Art

On this wall is a selection of paintings from the Second World War, a significant event in the development of Canada’s national identity.

Paintings of the Second World War by (clockwise from top left) Robert Hyndman, Tom Wood, Pegi Nicol Macleod, Charles Anthony Law, Harold Beament and Elizabeth Harrison
Robert Hyndman: Flight Lieutenant C.F. Schaefer (1945, oil on canvas)
Harold Beament: Embarking Casualties on D-Day, HMCS Pince David (1944, oil on canvas)

Darker Themes: Works by Carl Stewart, Janet Kaponicin & Bozica Radjenovic

Some of the works in the Ottawa Art Gallery have darker stories behind them. Carl Stewart’s ,mixed media work Nice Shoes, F***** (the asterisks are mine) is a memorial for Alain Brousseau, a  man who was killed in a homophobic hate crime when he was thrown off the Alexandra Bridge, which spans the Ottawa River. The length of the textile—80 metres—is the distance he fell. The case is described in this article: Death by hate: The life, power and symbolism of Alain Brosseau

Carl Stewart: Nice Shoes Fa**** (1996, woven wool thread and lurex)

Janet Kaponicin’s Tragic History behind the Parliament Building deals with a similar kind of senseless murder, with the events of the two cases being around 150 years and several hundred meters apart.  This artwork is about a the story of a teen Algonquin girl murdered by British soldiers behind Parliament Hill.

Janet Kaponicin: Tragic History behind the Parliament Building (2004, acrylic and birchbark collage on canvas)

The story is described in this article: Death on the Hill: An Algonquin artist’s 30-year struggle to preserve the memory of a Parliament Hill tragedy

Bozica Radjenovic’s mixed media piece Included/Excluded looks quite playful, but the red knitted wearable sculpture represents conflict and bloodshed, likely inspired by the artist’s experiences during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. To me, the red balls of yarn spilling out from the suit emphasize the frailty of the human body..

Bozica Radjenovic: Included/Excluded (2018, red knitted wearable sculpture with balls of wool)

The Queen

Let’s end with Stefan St-Laurent’s not-quite-life-sized sculpted caricature of Queen Elizabeth II, which is situated at the entrance to the Ottawa Art Gallery. It strikes a wonderful balance between being respectful and being fun.

Sculpture of Queen Elizabeth by Stefan St-Laurent

The gallery is relatively small but is conveniently located behind the Rideau Centre and the admission is free. If you are in town and are interested in art, be sure to check it out.

Go Further

This section includes discussion questions, an art challenge and links to online photo galleries and websites.

About the Video & Music

The video footage and photos were shot with a FUJIFILM X100T camera. The two songs features in the video are from my free background music series:

he lovely first song is Somewhere Deep in the Sea by Jessica Yip, I recorded that and the song is part of my Free Background music series (a collection of songs that you can use for free for non-commercial purposes). Information about the song and download links are on my website:

The short jazz outro is my own work and can be found on this page:

Online Galleries

Higher resolution images (e.g. 2048 x 1365) can be viewed online at:


Three Questions

  1. Which of the paintings or sculptures are most attractive to you? Why?
  2. How can art serve to help create a feeling of belonging to a particular city, region or country?
  3. Who would you say are the artists who best represent your country? Explain your answer.

Art Challenge

Create a work  painting, drawing, sketch, sculpture or mixed media piece   that represents your city or neighborhood.

~video, photos and text by


Return to Artjouer’s Gallery of Artists

Blue Art: Color Series 1 (featuring works by Chun Kwang Young, Mao Lizi, Yan Wei, Tetsuya Ishiyama, Cecilia Avendaño, Zhou Lian Hua, Chae Sung Pil & Studio 30)

What does the color blue evoke? Serenity, coolness, depth, sadness, otherworldliness? The sea and sky? This article introduces ten mostly monochromatic blue works by eight artists. Let’s dive into blue!

1. Chun Kwang Young: Aggregation

Chun Kwang Young; Aggregation 17 – DE096 (Star 33) (2017, mixed media with Korean mulberry paper); Art Central 2018 (Sundaram Tagore Gallery Hong Kong)

Here are two works from Korean artist Chun Kwan Young’s Aggegation series. The  works in this series are abstract three-dimensional mixed-media pieces  created from Korean mulberry paper (also know as hanji).

Detail view

Mulberry paper is strongly associated with Korean culture. Besides being used as writing paper, it has also been used as wrapping paper for food and as a kind of insulating material. As mulberry paper is made from indigenous plants, one can say that Chun Kwan Young’s artwork is literally made from part of the Korean landscape.

Chun Kwang Young; Aggregation 17 – MA021 (Star 4) (2017, mixed media with Korean mulberry paper); Art Basel 2018 (PKM Gallery)
Detail view

The process of creating the artworks is outlined below:

  • Mulberry paper is sourced from discarded books. Consequently, some Korean words—mainly in Hanja characters—are still visible on the artwork.
  • Some of the mulberry paper is cut and twisted to form strings.
  • Stryfoam is cut into small triangular prism shapes.
  • The paper is wrapped around the styrofoam prisms and tied with the string to form what look like little packages. The inspiration for this package design came from Chun Kwang Young’s memories of a childhood visit to a TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) doctor where he saw packs of wrapped medicine hanging from the ceiling. For a more detailed description of the artist’s inspirations and thought processes, you can check out this highly-informative page:
  • These packages are then colored (usually with natural dyes).
  • The colored packages are then assembled in tight clusters to form patterns.

The end result is that from a distance the artwork looks very modern and abstract, while up close there are many reminders of traditional Korean culture—in the paper, the texts and the wrapping techniques.

Chun Kwang Young; Aggregation 17 – MA021 (Star 4)
Detail view

Mini-bio: Chun Kwang Young  was born in 1944 in Hongchun, South Korea and studied at Hong-Ik University and the Philadelphia College of Art. He is best known for his paper-based artwork.

2. Mao Lizi: Ambiguous Flower

This is an image of Mao Lizi's painting Ambiguous Flower. Click on the image to view a higher resolution version on Flickr.
Mao Lizi; Ambiguous Flower (2017, oil paint on canvas); Art Central 2017 (Parkview Art Hong Kong)

These two abstract oil paintings are from Mao Lizi’s Ambiguous Flower series. At first, I thought they were ink paintings because of the soft stain-like flow of the paint.

Mao Lizi is deeply inspired by traditional ink painting, especially those works that express a minimalist sense of beauty. In an interview with Denise Tsui, he states:

When I was young, I visited the Palace Museum near the Forbidden City [in Beijing]. It was there that I saw Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) painter Xu Wei’s ink painting Grapes. I felt like the ink was just dropped randomly on the painting. It had a simplicity that was beautiful. The experience left a great impact on me. Throughout my career in painting I have always strived to achieve the same spirit as what is captured in Grapes.
Detail view of an oil painting, entitled Ambiguous Flower, is by Chinese artist Mao Lizi: Click on the image to view a higher resolution version on Flickr.
Detail view of Mao Lizi’s painting: Ambiguous Flower

Mao Lizi’s aim as an artist is straightforward: he strives to create happiness and beauty via art.

What I like about his paintings is his attention to shading, space and texture. In the Ambiguous Flower paintings, the shading seems to give the paintings a sense of movement, and the focus on texture brings out the intricate patterns of veins that carry nutrients and water through the leaves and petals of the flower. To me, these two things—the sense of movement, and the intricate patterns of the veins—give the paintings a strong feeling of vitality and life. At the same time, the empty white space creates a good balance between form and space while the use of the color blue adds a feeling of serenity to the work.

This is an image of Mao Lizi's painting Ambiguous Flower. Click on the image to view a higher resolution version on Flickr.
Mao Lizi; Ambiguous Flower (2017, oil paint on canvas); Art Central 2017 (Parkview Art Hong Kong)

Mini-bio: Beijing-based artist Mao Lizi (毛栗子) was born in 1950 in Shanxi province. In 1979, he co-founded the Stars Group, an influential collective of experimental artists in China. Earlier in his career, he specialized in photorealistic paintings. He studied at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1987 and worked as a visiting professor in France in 1990. Since the early 2000s, he has focused on abstract oil painting (though he has stated he will likely change styles again in the future).

3. Yan Wei: Unpredictable Distance

Yan Wei; Unpredictable Distance (2016, acrylic on canvas); Art Central 2018 (Line Gallery)

Although some of Yan Wei’s imagery can be quite disturbing (like in her ink paintings of children:, the scene in Unpredictable Distance is touching; two human-faced, giraffe-bodied creatures look like they are about to nuzzle one another affectionately. As the creatures are alien, we have no reference point as to their sex (or if the species even has different sexes) or age. They could be lovers or they could simply be parent and child. The relationship is uncertain;  what is certain is the sense of affection and feeling of serenity.

Unpredictable Distance (Detail view)

At the same exhibition, the painting Unpredictable Distance was paired with the painting shown below (However, I didn’t record the title of that one).

Painting by Yan Wei (acrylic on canvas); Art Central 2018 (Line Gallery)

Mini-bio: Beijing-based artist Yan Wei (闫威), also known as kokomoo, studied at Tsinghua University’s Academy of Art and Design and worked as an illustrator in the advertising field before choosing to concentrate on her career as an artist. She uses ink, acrylic and watercolor to create vibrantly-colored surreal scenes.

4. Tetsuya Ishiyama: Human Fungus

Tetsuya Ishiyama; Human Fungus (stoneware); Affordable Art Fair 2016 (Giant Year Gallery)

When doing research for this article, I came across another Human Fungus figurine by Tetsuya Ishiyama. That one is of a baby contentedly sucking his/her thumb and is entirely white (It can be viewed here: The all-white figurine seems cute and peaceful, while this one, due to the color and pose of the child, seems melancholy. To me, the outgrowth spiraling up from the head represents a kind of spiritual energy, and in this case, the child’s spiritual energy is tinged with sadness.

Fungus grows by decomposing and absorbing nutrients from organisms. Perhaps the ‘human fungus’ shown here grows by decomposing and absorbing emotions. That is my interpretation, anyway 🙂

The figurine is made form stoneware. Stoneware is similar to porcelain but is made from a different kind of clay, often involves a simpler firing (i.e., baking) process, tends to be fired at slightly lower (but still very high) temperatures, is more opaque in appearance and can come in different colors (like the blue in this figurine).

Mini-bio: Japanese artist Tetsuya Ishiyama (石山哲也) was born Saitama Prefecture in 1973. As a young child he developed an interest in rocks and stones. When he was 18, he began excavating archaeological sites and two years later decided to become a potter and moved to Shigaraki, a town famous for its pottery traditions. Early in his career, he worked as an artist and technical assistant at the Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park.

5. Cecilia Avendaño: e.5 E.MERGE

Digital image by Cecilia Avendaño. Click on the image to view a higher resolution version on Flickr.
Cecilia Avendaño; e.5 E.MERGE (2014, digital print); Art Central 2017 (Isabel Croxatto Galleria)

Cecilia Avendaño is best known for her composite digital portraits such as the one shown above. She has people pose for photos, and from these photos she creates a database of images of individual physical features (e.g., eyes, ears, noses, mouths, etc.). She then mixes and matches features from different photos to create portraits of weird-looking people who never existed. The title of her series—E.MERGE— can carry three meanings:

  • The E in E.MERGE can refer to the use of graphics editing software.
  • The MERGE and can refer to the process of joining together the features of different people.
  • The whole word EMERGE can refer to the new identity that emerges from the process.

A few years ago, she traveled to Asia so that she could add different kinds of features to her database. The above portrait was likely influenced by that trip. The heavy use of blue in the painting seems to add to the otherworldly feeling of the portrait.

Her artwork is also feature in my article: Cecilia Avendaño: Digital Composite Portraits.

Mini-bio: Chiliean artist Cecilia Avendaño Bobillier was born in Santiago in 1980 and studied photography at the University of Chile.

6. Zhou Lian Hua: Without the Pitch Tubes

Zhou Lian Hua; Without the Pitch Tubes (acrylic on canvas); Art Central 2017 (Gallery of Contemporary Arts)

The title of this painting—Without the Pitch Tubes—refers to comments by Mencius (孟子), an influential philosopher who lived during China’s Warring States period. Pitch tubes seem to have been an ancient equivalent of today’s electronic tuners (which musicians use to ensure they are in tune).

Mencius said, ‘The power of vision of Li Lou, and skill of hand of Gong Shu, without the compass and square, could not form squares and circles. The acute ear of the music-master Kuang, without the pitch-tubes, could not determine correctly the five notes. The principles of Yao and Shun, without a benevolent government, could not secure the tranquil order of the kingdom. There are now princes who have benevolent hearts and a reputation for benevolence, while yet the people do not receive any benefits from them, nor will they leave any example to future ages – all because they do not put into practice the ways of the ancient kings.

Hence we have the saying: “Virtue alone is not sufficient for the exercise of government; laws alone cannot carry themselves into practice.”

In the above passage, Mencius notes that just as how skilled mathematicians and musicians need to use the proper tools to produce the correct shapes and notes, governments and rulers also need to use the proper systems and practices so that their policies can be properly implemented.

Without the Pitch Tubes: (Detail view)

In an interview with Sara Zilienski, the artist comments on the inspiration behind the series of paintings—A Dialogue with Mencius— to which this painting belongs:

Although I live in Suzhou which is a relatively peaceful and quiet city, I am deeply concerned about many social issues that our modern society is facing today – environmental pollution, ecological destruction, disappearance of heritage and cultural traditions…to name just a few. When I read the teachings on humanism by our ancient Chinese philosopher Mencius, I am inspired by his emphasis on the innate goodness nature of human and people’s ability to do what is right. So in this new collection, I captured my impression of modern cities using my distinctive style of bold and vigorous brushwork. I want viewers to reflect on the damage we have done to our society and environment and yet to realize the inherent goodness and power we possess to change the world for the better.
Detail view

An unusual mini-bio: Chinese artist Zhou Lian Hua (周蓮華) was born in 1967 in Henan province. Her path to becoming an artist started when she was 28, when her husband and mother-in-law died on the same day. To support her three children, she moved to Shanghai to look for work. She ended up working in an art gallery and started to create her own paintings. She continued painting and eventually became a full-time artist. She is now based in Suzhou.

7. Chae Sung Pil: Terre Anonyme (historie de bleu 180302)

Chae Sung Pil; Terre Anonyme (historie de bleu 180302) (2018, natural pigments on canvas); Art Basel 2018 (Gallery Grimson). Photo by Maggie Lai Man-yee.

Chae Sung Pil creates landscapes in the most literal sense of the word; his abstract works are comprised mainly of…land. He collects soil from around the world, which he then filters, dilutes and mixes with glue to create natural pigments (he makes it a point to never use artificial materials in his work). The artist then uses a large brush to apply the mixture onto a mulberry-paper canvas that is laid flat on the floor. He adds highlights and shadows by dropping silver dust and ink onto the pigments and then tilting the canvas.

Detail view, Photo by Maggie Lai Man-yee

Chae Sung Pil’s paintings embody the artist’s love for Earth (the planet) and earth (the surface of the land). He states:

It all began over 20 years ago – I started working with earth….Every time I touch earth, I feel again like a boy playing in earth. When drawing with earth, I feel so good – as if embraced by my mother….I love earth, because it never changes, even when everything in this world does. God used clay to create the first man – soil has always been there. Of the five elements everything began with, it is earth that is in the center. Water, plants, fire, iron are all around it.

South Korean artist Chae Sung Pil (채성필) was born in 1972 on Jindo Island and studied at Seoul National University and Université Rennes. He is now living and working in Paris while working on his PhD at Université Paris.

8. Studio 30: Hug Me

Studio 30; Hug Me (mixed media on canvas); Affordable Art Fair 2016 (11.12 Gallery)

Studio 30, the Russian artist duo of Lily Balasanova and Sergei Kolevatykh, is best known for large and complex collages of cityscapes (which I will introduce in another article), but they also create more intimate works like this painting of two rabbit-headed figures embracing one another.

Besides being associated with fertility and procreation, Rabbits can also symbolize fear and vulnerability. In this painting, the main figures are surrounded by dragonflies, which are often said to symbolize things like change (because they transform from water-living nymphs to flying adult dragonflies) and the ability to endure hardships (as they have been around for hundreds of millions of years). Therefore, the painting could represent the importance of mutual support when facing frightening hardships and changes.

The artists in Studio 30 tend to combine collage techniques (involving digital printouts and fabrics) and more traditional acrylic painting techniques to create their works.

Hug Me

Bonus Round & Coming Soon

I had been planning on introducing more artworks on this page, but I think the article is quite long already, so I will stop here and do a second Blue Art page in the future. The next page in the color series will be devoted to red artworks.

If you want a little more blueness, however, you can drop by my post on Vancouver street art, where you can see two blue pieces by indigenous graffiti artist Larissa Healey (one of a bear, and one of a sun and whales):

Go Further

This section includes discussion questions, an art challenge and links to online photo galleries and websites.

Online Galleries

Higher resolution images (e.g. 2048 x 1365) can be viewed online at:

Artist Websites

  1. Chun Kwang Young (artist’s website):
  2. Mao Lizi (artist’s page at Parkview Art HK, which includes an interesting video about his background):
  3. Yan Wei (artist’s photoblog):
  4. Tetsuya Ishiyama (artist’s website):
  5. Cecilia Avendaño (interview with the artist):
  6. Zhou Lian Hua (interview with the artist):
  7. Chae Sung Pil (artist’s page at Gallery Shchukin):
  8. Studio 30 (artist’s website):

Three Questions

  1. Which of the above artworks do you like best? Why?
  2. Choose one of the above works. Why do you think the artist chose to use mainly blue for that work?
  3. What are the benefits of an artist putting a limitation or restriction on the creative process (e.g., painting only in one color, writing a novel without the letter ‘e’, using only five notes to write a song, etc)?

Art Challenge

Using any medium (e.g., ink, paint, photography, sculpture, mixed media, etc.), create an artwork that uses only blue, black and white.

~ text and photos by longzijun, with two photos by Maggie Lai Man-yee


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Correspondence through Art: Claire Lee & Régis Gonzalez

Régis Gonzalez; Enter the Void – Correspondence with Claire Lee (2016, ink on paper); Art Central 2016 (Mur Nomade)

The artwork presented on this page is a correspondence project between Claire Lee (a Hong Kong artist), and Régis Gonzalez (a French artist living in St. Etienne). The two artists sent each other a total of eight artworks—including texts, drawings, photographs and mixed media works—over the course of two years (2014-2016), The project was a dialogue that was meant to allow them to express their inner thoughts and feelings. Many of the works in the correspondence evoke feelings of pressure or alienation.

The project was initiated by Amandine Hervey, the curator at the Mur Nomade gallery in Hong Kong. The original idea was that the artists would ONLY be able to communicate with one another through their art work. People being people, however, the two artists did start attaching written explanations to their art and Régis even visited Hong Kong.

People have a desire to be understood as well as to understand, so perhaps communicating solely through art would have been frustrating. This kind of correspondence-via-art is a fascinating idea for an art project though.

The Correspondence

The entire correspondence was laid out on a table at Art Central 2016. The correspondence is in order; the first artwork is at top of the following photo.

Claire Lee & Régis Gonzalez; Correpondence (2014-2016); Art Central 2016 (Mur Nomade)

Régis initiated the art-dialogue with this painting of a woman kneeling by a river as a man (or a man’s body) floats past. That is a pretty intense way to start a conversation!

Régis Gonzalez; Debute (‘Start’) (oil paint, pencils, India ink)

Claire responded equally intensely  by building a tiny wooden box with a drawer containing, a poem, a letter, and a paper heart on top of drawings of…er…dead flies.

Claire Lee; Dead Flies and Awakening Heart (Watercolour, coloured pencils, chalk and acrylic on paper, wood)
Claire Lee; Dead Flies and Awakening Heart (detail view)

The letter begins:

Dear Régis, thank you for your painting, when I saw the man floating on the river it instantly reminds me of Nick Cave’s ‘Where the Wild Rose Grows’.

Here is the Nick Cave song that Claire is referring to:

Claire continues the letter by briefly introducing the accompanying poem, which is from her book entitled Ritual. Here is that poem:


by Claire Lee

In the middle of an abandoned cloister
A divine light irradiates the dust
A lonely hermit stares at an old desk

Religion searches for a corner to rest
He presses lightly on a huntress’ leaden breath
Spider is spinning a web at a dark corner
Candlelight whispers to tempt chaos

White smoke sneaks through the wet lips of a drawer
Old hermit remembers a summer story.

It was a humid summer
Huntress put into a drawer a heart saved from mire
Blood and tears seeped deep into the wood
Prey’s whimpering cries
Sadistic insects

That day a ferocious huntress and tigress glared at each other
In a sudden they found comfort in one another
She saves its life by digging out its heart
Then laid three white hairs on the carcass

Blood-drenched drawer is filled with eyes of desire
It is not love they hunger for but an emptiness of tempting fire

A black widow spinning a moth
His rough hand sweeps aside the heavy dust of memories
Before flame extinguishes
he sits and starts to write his first and only love letter
Then seals it and puts it inside the drawer

Tigress’s heart stops beating
It become the first Sabbath for the wild ones

Régis replied with a photo and short note:

Régis Gonzalez; The Reader (digital print); Art Central 2016

The letter reads:

I took this picture a night I couldn’t sleep. I was in a very small village in north of France. The village was empty of people. But close to 5.30 am, there was this guy. He never saw me taking the picture.

I thought I was alone but he was there
He thought he was alone but I was there.

As you send me the poem “Drawer” I found you a reader, kind of extension of myself at this moment.    

Let’s skip ahead a year (sorry, I didn’t get pictures of all the works).

Régis visited Hong Kong, which tends to be a pretty hot place, and people often like to keep the air-conditioning on full blast. As a result, you are often either too hot or too cold. In this picture, Régis imagines himself as a faceless humanoid air-conditioner: sometimes warm, sometimes cold, but never the perfect temperature.

Régis Gonzalez; (top) I feel like an air con machine cold or warm but never find the right temperature & (bottom) Untitled

The final artwork was from Claire. Entitled Missing Face, the painting shows a mask, or is it a disembodied face? Or are the two things—mask and face—one and the same?

Claire Lee; The Missing Face (Pigmented India Ink on acid-free archival clay-coated panel)

Once the project was finished, the works were displayed together and then sold separately. I would view the dialogue as a single work of art, so, to me, selling each piece independently seemed like a kind of ‘break up’—buyers would only be purchasing fragments of a single dialogue. Am I being too idealistic?

Mini-bio: Hong Kong artist Claire Lee was born in the territory in 1976. Her original training was in graphic design, but she is primarily is a visual artist (working with drawing, painting and mixed media) and poet. She is based in in Hong Kong and the United Kingdom.

Mini-bio: French artist Régis Gonzalez was born in 1976 and studied Fine Art. He is based in St. Etienne and his artwork includes drawings, paintings and mixed media works.

Go Further

This section includes discussion questions, an art challenge and links to online photo galleries and websites.

Online Galleries

Higher resolution images (e.g. 2048 x 1365) can be viewed online at:

Artist Websites

Three Questions

  1. Do you see a common theme running through the whole dialogue? What is that theme?
  2. What do you think of the art correspondence idea?
  3. How do you think the artists inspired each other? Do you notice, for example, something in one artist’s work that is an extension of or response to the other artist’s work?

Art Challenge

You should be able to guess the challenge for this article! Engage in an art dialogue with another person (but try to follow the rule—only communicate via the actual artwork).

~ text and photos by longzijun


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