'Deeper level' -- Chinese watercolorist Zhinan Jiang gained powerful new insights influencing his art following a near-fatal car accident in 1999 and the birth of a daughter the following year. 'Deeper level' -- Chinese watercolorist Zhinan Jiang gained powerful new insights influencing his art following a near-fatal car accident in 1999 and the birth of a daughter the following year. Submitted photo
Written by  Aug 16, 2017

Insights Follow Near-Fatal Crash, Informing Artwork in Chinese Watercolorist's Exhibition

Award-winning Chinese watercolorist Zhinan Jiang, now a visiting professor of art at SUNY Oswego, did not know after a car crash in 1999 whether he would live or, if he did, whether he would walk, talk or paint ever again.

Thanks to life-saving care and rehabilitation for which he is forever grateful, Jiang returned to all that and to enjoy time with a daughter born during his recovery. Powerful insights he gained along the way changed his approach to his art, and some of the results will be on display Aug. 29 to Sept. 17 in the college's Tyler Art Gallery.

A free public reception for the artist will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 8, in the Tyler Hall lobby, adjacent to the gallery. The exhibition, "Zhinan Jiang: Visitors," will share the flexible space in the modernized gallery with "Judith Ann Benedict: An Illustrated Life."

Jiang, a professor at Tsinghua University's prestigious Academy of Art & Design, is vice deputy and secretary-general of the China Watercolor Association and deputy director of the Beijing Watercolor Association. A technical master, he concentrates on the effects of shadow and light and strives to capture in paint the beauty and inherent dignity of everyday people and places through portraits and scenes.

Joshua McKeown, associate provost of international education and programs, met Jiang through Jinpei Wu, assistant professor of marketing and management in Oswego's School of Business. Jiang was interested in a visiting professorship, and McKeown worked with art department chair Cynthia Clabough and Wu to help Jiang achieve that, starting last February.

With Jiang's help, McKeown said, the college hopes one day to send Oswego students and their artwork to Beijing.

'Limitless expressions'

Jiang, in an artist's statement for his "Visitors" exhibition, called being a visitor "an amazingly underrated investment in oneself."

"Many times, I'm fascinated by the people I met when visiting a new place, especially by the beauty and mystery behind their seemingly ordinary faces," he wrote. "The subtlety of the human face and limitless expressions that they possess intrigue me to present beauty at a deeper level through my art."

Arriving at a place where he could appreciate and explore those subtleties came after the Thanksgiving 1999 traffic accident in Syracuse, his long recovery and the birth of his child.

"My attitude toward life, and my art, began to change," Jiang wrote in a 2010 essay included in "Being Grateful," a book of his work. "I paid more attention to the everyday details of life, and began to emphasize the changes of light in my work as I tried to use those changes to express the moment-to-moment changes in life …"

Michael Flanagan, director of Tyler Art Gallery, said he believes many different kinds of gallery visitors will be drawn to Jiang's "Visitors" exhibition.

"His work is extremely pleasing to most people, not just to connoisseurs," Flanagan said.

Jiang's artistry has gained significant recognition in China, including Awards of Excellence at the National Figures in Watercolor Exhibition, an International Jury Prize at the Science and Art Exhibition and an Award of Excellence at the Second China Golden Art Awards. He has exhibited in Europe and across Asia.

Starting Aug. 29, Tyler Art Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays, and 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays. The gallery is closed Mondays, holidays and during college breaks, unless otherwise noted.

Parking at SUNY Oswego requires a permit; drivers without a current campus parking sticker can visit oswego.edu/parking for information on obtaining a day-use permit.

On Thursday, Oct. 12, SUNY Oswego's branch campus in Syracuse will host Jiang for a slideshow of his artwork and a discussion of the status of watercolor today in China. The free public event from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Metro Center on Clinton Square will include a reception featuring some of Jiang's artwork, on view there for that evening only.

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