Arts & Culture

Richmond artist creates colourful coral-inspired pieces

By Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Published 10:29 PST, Tue January 7, 2020

Last Updated: 3:55 PST, Wed January 22, 2020

Richmond artist Fanny Tang is inspired by the ocean—and the plastic that ends up in it.

Tang was born on Nauru, formerly known as Pleasant Island, which is part of Micronesia. The island is surrounded by a coral reef, an image frequently featured in Tang’s art.

Her most recent exhibition, “Round Sky and Square Earth,” closing Jan. 8 at the Lipont Gallery, includes a number of different artistic media. 

Tang studied at the University of Calgary and the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. 

“I used to study oil painting when I was back in university,” she says, adding that now she prefers acrylic and likes to use it in a watercolour form.

The small pieces lining the walls, Tang explains, are on wooden panel frames.

“I really like colourful things, mixing colours, contrast,” she says. The first painting in the series was inspired by a piece of coral.

When asked what her pieces represent, Tang says: “It’s kind of a self-awareness, thinking of getting less and less to nothing. But in this show, I tell people it’s from nothing to something; it’s reversed.” 

According to Tang, “Round Sky and Square Earth” represents “Ancient Chinese thinking of the shape of the earth and the sky.”

In addition to the small, colourful paintings on the walls, the exhibition’s centrepiece is a large multimedia piece. Tang says it has no name or description and she prefers to let audience members interpret it for themselves. 

The piece has two sides. One is colourful, made of soft fibre and adorned with a string of lights. The other is white, made of items that might end up polluting the ocean. Tang explains that the white side represents coral that has died due to ocean pollution. She used foam apple pear wrappers and other packaging items to make it. 

Tang’s interpretation of the piece asks a thought-provoking question: “Do I want to destroy the world using a lot of plastic things?” She leaves it up to the audience to answer and interpret further.

Accompanying the large piece is another smaller piece made out of many different plastic items. One side is black and the other white; Tang says she was inspired by the tai chi yin yang.

Finally, the large windows of the gallery are covered with colourful window clings. Tang says these are made from acrylic paint and pouring medium; they were also inspired by the ocean.

“Originally, I wanted them to be jellyfish, swimming in the ocean, just like my life. I was travelling around quite a lot and wandering around. It’s just like me.”

Although Tang has her own interpretations of her artworks, she encourages audience members to interpret for themselves and draw their own conclusions. 

While Tang’s art was originally inspired by the ocean, she says: “Gradually now it’s more abstract than before.” She sees this progress as self-improvement, saying “I feel boring doing one thing.”

When asked about her future works, Tang says she may work with more mixed media: “For next time, I will have some wood, metal, wire, and then also some recycled things.”

And what are Tang’s plans for the upcoming Chinese New Year? She prefers to eat traditional Chinese food, and says: “I’m learning Tai Chi right now, so I’m going to have a tai chi performance near Chinese New Year.”

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