Feng: Technical prowess and the Buddhist way

Visiting artist's 'Buddha Series' exhibited through August

Posted: Thursday, August 09, 2001

The art of Feng Jialiang reflects both a pilgrimage to Tibet and a trip to the Mendenhall Glacier.

Feng, a Chinese painter visiting Juneau for a month, is the August Juneau Arts and Humanities Council's featured artist. His "Buddha Series" will be on display at the JAHC gallery until Aug. 31.

"This is the first time I've held an exhibit in this subject," said Feng, speaking through translator Miranda Coti on Tuesday. "It has to do with my life experiences. ... There was something different in my life and I was trying to see from the Buddhist way."

His oil paintings range in size and color. Some are pale, almost cloudy, and the Buddha shape they evoke is downplayed. Others use more vibrant color; the Buddha seems to stand out from the background.

"Different artists - their ability to appreciate color is very different," Feng said. "I appreciate the gray. I don't like the color too strong, too stimulating. I think the gray is more stable, more profound."

Feng came to JAHC's attention when he and his wife, Liu Jiang, attended CrossSound 2000, said Sybil Davis, JAHC executive director. Liu is famous for her performance on the erhu - a Japanese two-stringed instrument - and she performed in the festival at the invitation of director and friend Jocelyn Clark. Feng attended as a photographer. During their stay in Juneau, he met with a group of Juneau artists and showed them his portfolio.

"We were all really very, very impressed," Davis said. "He is the kind of fine art painter whose technical prowess is formidable. You see his paintings and they are so far above and beyond what other people are doing."

Feng has painted since childhood. As a teen-ager, he attended a specialized school for painters and moved from more traditional Chinese art to oils, earning a major at Nanjing Art College in 1991. His art has continued to evolve, shifting in emphasis from realism to the more abstract "Buddha Series."

"(Among) my paintings ... there are some abstract but not totally," Feng said. "I really think abstract is the highest plane."

He compared one of his previous pieces - a Tibetan family painted in

almost-picturesque style against a snowy background - to his current work.

"These are shaped differently but I think spiritually (they are) the same. ... (They are) both Buddhists," Feng said. "I see a growth."

Though Feng was raised in a Buddhist household and studied Buddhism at school, a series of pilgrimages to Tibet in 1988 and 1994 ultimately cemented his faith.

"He went to Tibet to visit," said Liu, also speaking through translator Coti. "People ... walk over there. They walk seven steps, then they kneel down, then they pray to the Buddha. Seeing that (made) a big impression on him - seeing how powerful the Buddha is."

Many of the figures in Feng's paintings are based on existing sculptures of the Buddha.

"A lot of those paintings come from sculpture," Feng said. "The sculptures I saw were (centuries) old. They're worn out and from that image, I feel there's some real stuff there."

About 20 paintings will be exhibited in the show. It takes Feng about a week to complete a work if he focuses on only one painting, but he said he usually paints two or three at a time.

The show may move on to Sitka after it finishes its run in Juneau, Davis said. The paintings have all been completed within the last two years, and the JAHC show will mark the first time they are displayed.

It's the perfect venue, Feng said.

"If this exhibition happens in Seattle, Los Angeles, I personally don't think it really fits because of the environment," he said. "Juneau is such a beautiful place. It really fits the subject."

The "Buddha Series" will be on display at the JAHC Gallery at 206 North Franklin Street from Aug. 10 to 31. An opening reception will be held on Aug. 10 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Call 586-ARTS for more information.

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