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Two artists for whom watercolor is in their nature

Although watercolor is a medium deployed by both Jing-Jy Chen and Bonita Glaser in the exhibit "2 Artists 2 Views," their distinctive subjects and styles make it easy to distinguish their artwork hanging on the walls of the Bernice Kish Gallery at Slayton House.

Jing-Jy Chen works within an Asian tradition that depicts natural subjects with watercolor and ink on paper. Indeed, a tree native to China figures into some of the work. In "Golden Ginkgo," that tree's distinctively shaped leaves are even more pronounced owing to the fact that the artist has a leaf-covered branch set against a pitch-black background.

Besides anchoring such compositions, tree branches provide a perch for the birds that often appear here. "Ginkgo and Birds," for instance, shows how much at home the birds seem in these branches.

Seasonal changes also get noted, as in the orange and yellow tones in the ginkgo leaves depicted in "Autumn Color."

In addition to this particular tree, there are numerous depictions of flowers, including Chinese lantern and peony. These are close-up views in which you're encouraged to contemplate the colorful blossoms.

Just as there are various kinds of trees and flowers here, the animal kingdom also gets its due. One of the most pleasing works also qualifies as one of the smallest and most modest in terms of subject. "Bamboo and Grasshopper" depicts an insect so completely nestled within bamboo leaves that its dark shape nearly blends in with the dark leaves.

Much more colorfully assertive are "Koi" and related works in which these closely spaced, vividly hued fish might as well be putting on a fashion show in a pond. Likewise, "Peacock" and "Colorful Pheasant" feature these birds showing off their multi-colored feathers.

Somewhat more restrained is "Cranes and Pine," whose two white cranes are standing so close together that their beaks are nearly touching. The cranes have black feathers on sections of their mostly white feather-covered bodies, and those bits of black are complemented by the strokes of black ink used to represent adjacent pine needles.

A stylistic link can be made between "Cranes and Pine" and "Born Free," because the tiger at rest in the latter work has black stripes complementing the black leaves nearby.

If Jing-Jy Chen finds aesthetic and technical inspiration in traditional Asian watercolor-and-ink scenes of nature, the second exhibiting artist, Bonita Glaser, does landscape-oriented watercolors that mostly look to local landscapes for inspiration.

In "Mt. Hebron Farm." "Hay Bales," "South Mountain, Autumn" and similar works, the rolling farmland lends itself to watercolors in which the essentially realistic depictions also allow for a more subjectively emotional response.

"Change of Season," for instance, captures the look and feel of oncoming autumn in a rural setting. And "Through the Undergrowth" offers a realistic depiction of dense woods in which the various shades of green also speak to the artist's emotional response to the scene.

Jing-Jy Chen and Bonita Glaser exhibit through Dec. 19 at the Bernice Kish Gallery at Slayton House, 10400 Cross Fox Lane in Wilde Lake in Columbia. There is a reception Saturday, Nov. 2,  2- 4 p.m. Call 410-730-3987 or go to http://www.gallery@wildelake.org.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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