INTERPRETATIONS OF THE BRUSH: Chinese paintings by Pearl Chang, Chi-chong Lee and Huei-ling Worthy, through April 28 at Elan Gallery, 7720 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda.
For thousands of years mastery of Chinese calligraphy and painting has been a measure of the inner state of mind. Students cultivate a calm steady hand to execute the brush strokes and control the flow of ink onto delicate rice paper.
Incorporating this traditional approach with Western techniques is the theme of a group show at the Elan Gallery in Bethesda. The artists, Pearl Chang, Chi-chong Lee and Huei-Ling Worthy, were trained in both Oriental and European styles at Hong Kong's New Asia College. They all have a strong desire to maintain their native culture and tradition through art but don't deny the influence of Western movements, especially the abstractionists.
Classic Chinese painting conveys impressions rather than literal detail. The blank spaces in a work are just as evocative as the decorated ones. A landscape's vast expanse is expressed through dotting, revolving, splashing and washing movements of the brush. The crevices of a cliff are implied by long strokes of varying shades of gray, while the trees below are loose blobs of black ink. Similarly, in Lee's hands a young chick is implied, its fluffy feathers a pale, delicate smudge, while sharp lines define the beak.
The works in this show are more vibrantly colored because the artists have opted for acrylics instead of the muted traditional Chinese watercolors. The result is both refreshing and subtle, espcially in two calligraphic paintings of bamboo: Chang's gold acrylic on silk and Worthy's green on rice paper. Bamboo is the symbol of resilience, bending yet not easily broken.
The composition in simple and takes no more than 10 minutes to execute. It takes years of training and dozens of paintings at a sitting to get one that is just right. It is the exercise of this style of painting, says Worthy, that encourages the artist to lose the ego and achieve harmony.