By Michelle Joline
The 2011 season at the Samek opened Jan. 28 with two exhibitions: “Works on Paper” by Deng Guoyuan and Rosalyn Richards in the main gallery and “Collection Focus III: In Chicago” in the Study Gallery. University professor and artist Richards and Chinese artist Guoyuan find the link between Eastern and Western art by individually deconstructing nature’s composition.
Although only two floors from the loud bustle of the Bostwick Marketplace, the Samek Art Gallery is a quiet place of reflection currently filled with organic images of sea foam and prairie grass.
An unlikely pair, Guoyuan and Richards were matched to work together on the exhibition after the Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts sponsored Guoyuan to travel to the University in 2008. Richards then visited China in 2009, where she was able to view Guoyuan’s sculptural work and exhibit her own pieces.
At first glance, the two artists seem to create in fantastically different styles. They still manage to form complementary elements in their opposing pieces to create a cohesive and visually pleasing start to the Samek Gallery’s 2011 season.
An image void of color but filled with interesting textures and rhythmic patters greets visitors to the gallery. “Footprints,” a piece by Richards, covers the majority of the wall opposite the entrance doors, and consists of multiple panels that hold the magnified images of organic subjects.
Richards said “Footprints” is her favorite of her work in the exhibition. “I want [guests] to come and look at my big piece (“Footprints”) because I like to explore scale in drawing,” she said. “I really think of drawing as a complete thing in and of itself. I really believe in drawing as an important medium, not just a way to prepare for work in another medium. A lot of people think of drawing as a lesser art form, where you just do a sketch for a painting and that’s its function. I think he [Guoyuan] does too, think of drawing as an important art activity.
As Richards’ most recent piece, “Footprints” seems to pull the viewer in to find the minute details formed with ink and graphite. The sporadic representations tease the eye with vertical and horizontal patterned markings. The energetic quality of the piece and many others throughout the gallery capture the essence of nature’s qualities, eventually forcing the viewer to realize that the ink marks that draw attention really make up a splash of oil.
This magnified and detailed view of organic forms contrasts with the works by Guoyuan, who uses gestures to expressively portray his vision of natural subjects. The Samek Gallery is currently functioning as a portal into contemporary Chinese art, still representing and reflecting the influences of ancient Chinese ink drawings.
“I would say I am drawn to the paintings of [Guoyuan’s] that use some of the white of the paper in a very energetic way,” Richards said. “Like ‘In the Garden 2010.II. No. 12,’ for example, the passages of air or mist that flow through the marks because some of his pieces are more densely painted. I think because I am very interested in un-drawn spaces on the page, I find myself gravitate to certain ones he’s done, where the white of the paper takes on an important part.”
This exhibition will remain in the Samek Art Gallery, free of charge, until March 30.
“I think [audiences should] spend time with the show, and I think it is a very quiet, contemplative type of work for the both of us, meditative,” Richards said. “When people come to the show there may be a lot of people here and they may enjoy the show but I think they should come back and spend some time here. I think for both of us it is not a type of work that shouts out at you, it takes a slowing down, and everything in life is quick. I would want everyone to experience the gallery as a quiet and contemplative place to be.”