Images of artistic growth, heritage

A painter and photographer, siblings from China, are `touching people's hearts'

Review

June 30, 2006|By SANDY ALEXANDER | SANDY ALEXANDER,SUN REPORTER

Youlong Yang, 75, of Columbia and Youhong Yang, 77, who lives in China, where the two siblings were born, say a joint show at Slayton House Gallery in Columbia three years ago gave their fledgling artistic careers an important boost.

Youlong Yang began focusing seriously on photography, and his sister, Youhong Yang, took up painting after they retired. Mr. Yang said the first exhibit "encouraged us very much because we have more confidence in ourselves."

Now the Yangs have returned to Slayton House with new works that reflect their artistic growth and their Chinese heritage - Mr. Yang's photos show many views of China, and Ms. Yang's paintings employ the Chinese brush style.

The exhibit, Two Views of China, has been extended to Aug. 8.

"There have been a lot of people coming in to see the show," said Bernice Kish, the gallery director and Wilde Lake Village manager. The artists "certainly have picked a theme that is touching people's hearts."

She added: "The photography is really exquisite. ... The brush painting has a certain feeling to it that is quite different from other brush painting I've seen. She has a nice touch."

Youlong Yang began taking photographs in middle school and continued the hobby throughout his career as a professor and engineer in China. He was a visiting professor at Tufts University in the early 1980s. In 1991, he moved to the United States and worked in international trade with China.

He said that once he retired in 2001, "I contributed all my energy and all my time to my hobby, which is photography."

He joined photography clubs to learn from others, and on a trip to China, he sought out a well-known photographer to get feedback on his work. "I try every way to create opportunities to learn from other people," he said.

In recent years, he has traveled all over China and Tibet taking photographs that focus on what he calls "great" or "imposing landscapes."

One photograph captures a yak grazing away from its herd that appears tiny against a wide field of grass. Another shows a sweeping view of what is believed to be the highest lake in the world, sitting among mountains in Tibet.

Mr. Yang also photographs folk culture, including brightly clothed children and fluttering prayer flags in Tibet.

He said that today many people are interested in learning more about China, and his photographs may offer a "good cultural exchange."

Mr. Yang said he uses his computer to fine-tune the photographs, and in a written statement about his art, he said, "Once I complete a piece of presentable work, the satisfaction of creation and the feeling of beauty give me great pleasure."

His sister came to the United States to study at the Boston Conservatory of Music in the 1940s and then returned to China, where she spent 40 years studying Chinese folk music as a musicologist and professor. It was not until she retired in 1988 that the Beijing resident took painting lessons at a university for senior citizens in Beijing.

"I love beautiful things, especially natural beautiful things like trees and sky and birds," she said. When she began learning to paint, she said, she thought, "Maybe I can learn something to express what made me happy."

Although her style is most like Chinese brush painting, she said she was too old to spend years learning all of the traditional techniques and instead made paintings that she liked, particularly of flowers and birds.

In a written statement about her art, she said, "Traditional Chinese brush painting is characterized by black and white interspersed with various degrees of gray in its depiction of nature. This for me was insufficient for the depiction of the colorful brilliance of nature."

She wrote that her techniques, using more colors, combining some colors with black and white, and partially dissolving or dissipating other colors, have yielded "a mixture of unpredicted difficulties and endless joys."

There are also a few paintings in the latest exhibit that copy a simple blue-and-white print style in some traditional Chinese clothing.

"After you have your own style, you have to jump out, step out and create something new," she said.

sandy.alexander@baltsun.com

Slayton House is in Columbia's Wilde Lake Village Center, off Twin Rivers Road. Information and hours: 410-730-3987

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