The age-old merge between the Eastern/Western culture of art is being explored at the Roby King Gallery’s September show. And the eight artists weighing in make the point that perhaps we’re not so different after all.
There have long been artists in the West who have been heavily influenced by and even tried to recreate the style of the traditional East. Likewise, the more modern elements of Western art have also been imprinted on Eastern artists. And so it goes into a beautiful collision.
The Roby King show “China Revisited” is a bit like the memoirs of a group of artists thrown directly into the middle of that smash.
It features the artistic reflections of a group of Kitsap artists which went on a cultural exchange vacation in Asia, led by Bainbridge multi-mediaist and a former exchange instructor — Michele Van Slyke — to the People’s Rebublic of China at the invitation of the China Workers’ Center for International Exchange.
She and six other delegates who were on that spring 2006 trip have contributed work to the Roby King show which also features island photographer Pete Saloutos and traditional Chinese paintings from Bainbridge artist Randi Evans — revisiting, researching and revealing the influence of the Orient.
“We think alike all over the world in a way,” Van Slyke said. “But being there to see the contrast of the modern and the old, the rich and the poor, the color and the non-color … it’s the country itself that influences you most I think, it’s very jarring.”
The influence of traveling to five different cities and not only seeing the sites that everyone has to see when they are in those cities but also peering into the galleries, studios, schools and museums of the culture seems to have had an impact of contrast.
For Van Slyke — who’s forte is that of fortuitous public art sculpture — this trip brought out an entirely different side of her work, one that hadn’t even been revealed to her before.
“These pieces are completely different from my normal work, it’s wood and steel and paper … a little bit of everything, which is kind of what China is like,” Van Slyke said.
“One of the things I gleaned from the experience was the Chinese universities are teaching Western as well as continuing their Eastern traditions,” said Roby King gallery owner Andrea Roby King. “But they are full speed ahead on Western arts.”
While continuing strict education in traditional techniques like lacquer, paper cutting, clay and jade carving, the graphic arts are also a very profitable and popular up and coming art form. Some Eastern artists have also embraced the trend of 1960s American pop art.
However, there is one Western sentiment which the Eastern culture remains deviant from.
“Art is a really important part of society there … sometimes here we don’t feel that so much,” Van Slyke said.
But, the feeling is alive and well inside the Roby King Gallery — at 176 Winslow Way on Bainbridge — which will be exhibiting “China Revisited” through Sept. 29. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Info: www.robykinggalleries.com or call (206) 842-2063.