Yolanda Yang is offering an eight-week Chinese brush painting at the VISAC Gallery starting Sept. 25. Yang is an accomplished Shanghai art teacher

Combining Chinese painting and culture

Artist says West Kootenay region reminds her of home in China

A first-time class at the downtown Trail art gallery gives novice painters a chance to dip into Chinese painting techniques while learning a little history about traditional Asian culture.

Chinese painting lessons at the VISAC Gallery begin next Thursday at 3 p.m. and will run for eight weeks under the tutelage of Yolanda (Shuo) Yang.

Yang is a 30-year old fashion designer and art major who is new to Trail.

She is far from her homeland city of ShiYan in the northwest province of Hubei, China.

But during her drive from theLower Mainland through the West Kootenay region, Yang was reminded of her birth city and the surrounding Wudang Mountain range, which houses one of the most important cultural centres of the Taoist faith.

“I love Trail so much,” said the soft spoken Yang. “There’s a famous city, Shiyan, where all the houses and factories are on a mountain like Trail,” she explained. “So when I drove here for the first time, I told my husband that I feel like I am back home.”

Yang began studying traditional Chinese painting at the age of nine, and since that time, has received and art degree from Shanghai University and taught children at the metropolis’ famous international school called Soong Ching Ling Multicultural Division.

While she was instructing foreign children in the school’s art program, Yang said her English needed some improvement, so she enrolled in a class to improve her knowledge of the language.

It was there she met her English teacher, Alain Millette, a B.C. native who later became her husband.

“I learned English and one year later we started dating,” she said with a giggle. “I was happy with him so we got married.”

But after seven years of living abroad, her husband was ready to return to Canada and resume his former career in the trades.

Last year, the couple landed in Victoria during Christmas, but Alain, an electrician, couldn’t find work on the coast.

Three months ago, a job opportunity opened at the Waneta Dam, and the pair hopped in their car and relocated to Trail.

Since that time, Yang has been continuing English classes through Columbia Basin Alliance for Learning (CBAL).

Through CBAL instructor Carolyn Amantea, Yang was introduced to VISAC’s artistic director, then given the chance to share her knowledge of Chinese painting and culture with people in Greater Trail.

“First, I don’t say I teach,” she explained. “I say I share my skill because Chinese painting is free style, easier and more relaxed.

“I’ll show how other Chinese artists (paint), and you can chose the way you like.”

Each of the eight lessons will focus on different subject matter and Yang said she will talk about its cultural relevance during the class.

Yang explained that traditionally, Chinese painting uses rice paper as a medium, but she’ll talk about that significance in Asian culture and how the paper has evolved into something more modern than its historical handmade layers of cotton and fibres.

“There is also thousands of brushes but choosing one is like wine tasting,” she said.

“And I’ll talk cultural, like if we paint a goldfish. It won’t be about (replicating) a goldfish, but what a goldfish means in China. And there are many stories.”

Yang’s class is one of many fall courses and workshops slated to begin at the gallery next week.

After being allotted a $7,000 grant through the Columbia Basin Trust’s Community Initiatives and Affected Area program, VISAC upgrades include a refreshed colour palette in the studio, a new pottery wheel and additional potters’ tools.

For more information, visit visacgallery.com or call 364.1181.

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