Tett Interview: Artist Pengyuan Wang

Artist Pengyuan Wang at his 2019 solo exhibition at the Tett Centre

Hello, Peng. Please tell us about yourself.

I am a Kingston-based free artist of painting, focusing on communication through painting and graphic arts. I enjoy my creative freedom, not limited by specific art mediums or a certain artistic style. 

I was born and raised in China and emigrated to Canada eight years ago. I think being able to experience different living conditions is a very important thing in life. Canada is vast and has magnificent natural scenery. I remember when I first came to Kingston, I fell in love with this city, which was my first choice to live. I have two professional art studios in the city – one in the west end and the other at the Tett Centre.

Are there other artists in your family?

My artistic upbringing was closely tied to the artistic atmosphere of my family life and their educational philosophy. My parents discovered my obsession painting at an early age. In my parents' opinions, only the paint brush could keep me quiet! From beginning to end, they thought that studying art would make me happy. The support and encouragement that they have given to me over the years allowed me to become a professional artist.

What is your earliest memory creating artwork?

My earliest painting memory comes from the graffiti in my childhood. On any possible painting material, I left traces and messy lines. My parents approved of me doing so. In retrospect, maybe this kind of free expression without professional training is the most enjoyable process, because there is no restriction and it is completely out of instinct. Now I teach drawing to children. I am fascinated with their ways of using colour and lines.

Are you a self-taught artist or did you study art in school, or by working with an artist?

I studied in the professional studio of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, China. After graduation, I had the honor of working on several design art projects with my teacher. Although I studied oil painting professionally, I have always maintained an open attitude towards learning and experimenting with new art mediums. Using the same painting materials and language for a long time will narrow my creative vision.

Please describe your artwork.

I use traditional techniques with modern synthetic materials. For example, I burn and collage on paper, make prints from wood engravings, and I use a variety of different brushes to paint with oils on canvas and silk. Each piece conveys a different artistic mood and ornamental and at the same time, has a full-bodied Oriental Art style.

Where do you find inspiration for your artwork?

I find inspiration in the details of life and ephemeral images which is probably why many artists [like myself] like to stay close to nature, or to experience the natural attributes of being human. So-called inspiration should be anything but ordinary, a kind of moving on the edge of our emotions. Different people have feelings for the same painting. The inspiration for a painting may dry up for a while or it may last a long time. I think the open-ended acceptance of everything new and artistic might make that feeling more enduring.

Can you describe your creative process?

At the beginning of [creating] some works, there isn’t a very clear goal and there can be a lot of new ideas while using different mediums to express textures. I think the change in an artwork itself is most interesting. Of course, the concrete expression is also very important. This is why I want to be able to be in a state of free creation, free from the constraints of specific goals, and to follow the feeling of textures and the state of painting to express.

In my opinion, painting is a way of recording emotions and all art has this function. Sometimes, the state of painting into which I enter is unstable in form [meaning, without a clear goal] and it may be that some of the unstable emotions easily find an entry point to painting. If you see too clearly, it is difficult to cut into your own emotions and enjoy the changes and uncertainties in the process of painting. For example, I might use negative emotions to ruin some of the brushstrokes that I thought were good before. In my opinion, destructive emotions may create better results. Painting itself is a silent language, and we destroy or sacrifice some details to make the painting language more concentrated.

The work itself is always changing, with new understandings every now and then. This especially true of oil paintings and the subtlety of the brushstrokes and the way they are expressed. This is probably the hardest part for me: how to confirm from the point of view of the ego that a piece is finished? In fact, I'm more convinced that every piece is always in an unfinished state, subject to change.

In your experience, what is it like to work, teach and exhibit your artwork at the Tett Centre?

I am very fortunate to have a Creativity Studio at the Tett Centre, one with a view of Lake Ontario, where I can quietly watch the clouds and the lake change.

The Tett Centre has great professional classrooms for medium-sized classes. I teach small painting and calligraphy workshops at the Tett Centre where we experiment with different art mediums such as rice paper and acrylic and oil paints. The process is interesting because I encourage each student to express different feelings about the same subject. The whole process of painting is open, and I prefer to convey a sense of how to make art rather than the technical process of painting. 

I promote a free art teaching model. This kind of emotional therapy is very effective. In 2018, I volunteered helping persons with special needs, some who were unable hold a pen or speak. I could feel their joy in their artwork. I also teach art classes in local public schools and at art camps, and I volunteer teaching art to youth and seniors.

I've been exhibiting my solo work annually in the Tett Gallery since 2017 and this year, there will also be a solo show in the fall. At the same time, the Tett Centre has a great management team and a wonderful working atmosphere with strong relationships among the artists, and a fabulous mature arts community. 

Thank you, Peng.

To learn more about Artist Pengyuan Wang’s artwork and art-making workshops, please visit:

Instagram: @pengyuan529

Facebook: Pengyuan Wang

Interested in teaching an art making workshop at the Tett Centre? If so, please visit our website at https://www.tettcentre.org/rentals or contact the Tett Centre Rentals Coordinator, Susanna Gordon at rentals@tettcentre.org.

Interview and photography by Susanna Gordon