No matter the circumstances, painter JingLu Zhao focuses on light and hope, and those themes came together in her latest exhibit at the John. V. Hicks Gallery in the Prince Albert Arts Centre.
Zhao’s exhibit had a closing reception on Saturday at the Hicks Gallery. It was just the second time she’s shown her work publicly, and she’s happy to have her work in the spotlight.
“Last year I had a solo show at the Frances Morrison Library and then this is the second one,” she explained.
“Absolutely, I am grateful. It’s hard to be a home mom, to get out of the house, especially because I don’t have self confidence with my language and everything. I’m really proud that finally I reached more local artists. I feel like I want to follow that path now and keep going and showing my work.”
Zhao, who is originally from China and earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Masters of Fine Arts. She initially returned to her hometown in China, where she began teaching university art courses. However, she also met a man from Saskatchewan who would become her husband, and they moved to Saskatoon in 2013.
Initially, Zhao focused on helping her family, but when COVID-19 arrived it created a new sense of urgency.
“I focused my energy to build my family and my kids so I always stay home for eight years not doing art just focusing on my family,” she said.
“So finally COVID comes and I need to do something. There is something inside me and I just want to paint again, so in 2021 I started to paint again.
“Since this happened we separated, and I feel like that’s my trauma, but I want to tell the viewer there is always hope. I called this exhibition “Ray of Light”, there is always hope. Actually, I am telling my story through my artworks.”
“Ray of Light” examines the identity of JingLu Zhao’s family as they explore the world. Zhao creates acrylic and oil paintings, combining figuration and landscapes reflecting her children’s Chinese and First Nations heritage.
“Basically my artwork is about my kids and my life and the art is figurative and landscape together because of the place I call home: China and Saskatoon,” she said. “It’s not necessarily the timeline, this show, but just the story.”
After her second public art show, Zhao is excited to keep painting, no matter what lies ahead.
“I just want to keep doing it and there is always hope,” she said.
The event was curated by Marcus Miller of the Mann Art Gallery who gave an introductory speech and people had a chance to speak with Zhao about her work.
“Thanks Marcus Miller for being the curator and thanks to the Mann Gallery for the opportunity and all of their staff,” Zhao said.