Lipont Gallery is proud to present The Circle of Life exhibition by artist Guo Yan and Pepe Hidalgo. Both artists seamlessly integrate their unique artistic languages and expressions into stunning paintings depicting lush, dreamlike sceneries. The show also includes several paintings independently created by the artists around the theme of magic realistic time travel with Guo Yan addressing the past and Pepe Hidalgo envisioning the future.
Join us this Wednesday, March 9th from 2-5pm for the opening reception. The exhibition runs from March 9th to 25th.
Guo Yan is a contemporary artist who lives and works in Vancouver, Canada. She graduated from the Xi’an Academy of Fine arts in 1995 and has exhibited across China, US, and Canada. Yan explores the nuanced relationship between humans and the environment through interpretative dual themes of light and darkness. Her artworks are part of major art institutions like the National Art Museum of China, Shanghai Xuhui Art Museum, and Beijing Yuan Art Museum among others.
Born in Spain, Pepe Hidalgo is now based in British Columbia, Canada. Hidalgo predominantly works in sizeable acrylic paintings that depict varying painting genres like landscapes, still lifes, and historical scenes. Pepe Hidalgo completed his studies in Madrid, Spain and Utrecht, Netherlands, where he was trained in the studies of form, colour, and perspective. His work has been exhibited and is in private collections in Spain, Germany, Belgium, Canada, and Holland.
For the Cycle of Life
La idea original de la que partimos Guo Yan y yo para esta exposición, estaba relacionada con la renovación de la vida en la naturaleza de forma cíclica. Esta idea me llevó a pensar en la vida humana en su ciclo y di un gran salto y me puse a pensar en la idea cíclica de la evolución humana.
Pido disculpas por ello. Pero no quise dejar pasar la oportunidad de poder novelar pictóricamente, una de las últimas versiones sobre la creación del ser humano, me refiero a la traducción de las tablillas sumerias, anteriores a la Biblia y que en muchos aspectos coinciden.
Las tablillas sumerias traducidas por Zecharias Sitchin , nos narran la historia de unos seres de otro planeta que en busca de oro, llegaron a este planeta y su conocimiento genético era tan grande que podían modificar el ADN en la naturaleza. Mezclaron su ADN con la de seres de la Tierra dando origen al humano y otro tipo de creaciones.
Mi mente se trasladó a la actualidad donde nuestra civilización ha robotizado la vida, hemos transformado genéticamente parte de la naturaleza, estamos en disposición de viajar a otros planetas. Cada día las noticias nos sorprenden sobre los avances en la robótica quirúrgica, trasplantes de órganos de animales a humanos y nuevas informaciones sobre el conocimiento del espacio.
Partir de esta realidad y con estos datos novele mi historia pictórica del Ciclo de la Vida.
Aunque cada cuadro es independiente y tiene sentido por sí mismo, lo he diseñado para que también guarde relación con el anterior y el siguiente. Todos ellos forman lo que he decidido llamar la novela pictórica del Ciclo de la Vida. Los dividí en trípticos:
El primero representa la “Robotización”
El segundo es la “Mutación Genética y el Comienzo del Viaje al Espacio”
El tercero es la “Visita a un Planeta y la Creación de la Vida” Aquí es donde introduzco un reconocimiento de la mitología como posibilidad de la ingeniería genética dando lugar a centauros, minotauros, sátiros… .
El cuarto es la “Caída de los Dioses y el Andar de los Humanos en su Conocimiento y Evolución”
Después del cuarto tríptico es donde se cierra el ciclo porque el ser humano va llegando al punto de partida pero en una espiral con una evolución superior (más volátil).
For the Cycle of Life
The original idea from which Guo Yan and I started for this exhibition was related to the renewal of life in nature in a cyclical way. This idea led me to think about human life in its cycle and I took a big leap and started thinking about the cyclical idea of human evolution.
I apologize for it, but I did not want to pass up the opportunity to be able to fictionalize pictorially one of the latest versions of the creation of human beings, I am referring to the translation of the Sumerian tablets prior to the Bible and which in many aspects coincide.
The Sumerian tablets translated by Zecharias Sitchin, tell us the story of some beings from another planet who came to this planet in search of gold and their genetic knowledge was so great that they could modify the DNA in nature. They mixed their DNA with that of beings from Earth, giving rise to humans and other types of creations.
This brought me to the present where our civilization has robotized life, we have genetically transformed part of nature, we are ready to travel to other planets. Every day the news surprises us with advances in surgical robotics, organ transplants from animals to humans, and new information on knowledge of space. Starting from this reality and with these data, I novelize my pictorial history of the Cycle of Life.
Although each painting is independent and makes sense by itself, I designed them so that each one is related to the previous and the following one. All of them form what I have decided to call the pictorial novel of the Cycle of Life. I divided them into triptychs:
The first one represents “Robotization”. The second one is the “Genetic Mutation and the Beginning of the Journey into Space”. The third one is the “Visit to a Planet and the Creation of Life”. This is where I introduce a recognition of mythology as a possibility of genetic engineering giving rise to centaurs, minotaurs, satyrs…The fourth one is the “Fall of the Gods and the Walk of Humans in Their Knowledge and Evolution”. After the fourth triptych is where the cycle closes because humans are arriving at the starting point but in a spiral with a higher evolution (more volatile).
English translation by Noreen Marte
撒迦利亚·西琴 (Zecharias Sitchin) 翻译的苏美尔泥板告诉我们一些来自另一个星球的生物来到地球寻找黄金的故事。他们的基因知识非常丰富，可以修改自然界的基因。他们将自己的基因与地球生物的基因混合，产生了人类和其他类型的创造物。
The Renewal of The World and The Blooming of Life
Art Exhibition: Circle of Life – Art by Guo Yan and Pepe Hidalgo
The collaboration between Chinese-Canadian artist Guo Yan and Spanish artist Pepe Hidalgo happened naturally. Following the fifty dialogue paintings and multiple collaborative works of The Origin of the Souls Exhibition in 2020, they continue to explore the subject of life, presenting concepts such as life, survival, reality and fantasy to the audience with more engaging stories and images.
This exhibition, Circle of Life, will display three diptychs jointly created by the two artists, Lively Garden of the Future, Enter the Garden of Dreams, and Garden in Spring, as well as several stunning paintings created independently by the two artists. Life is an eternal theme. The two artists firmly grasp the issues of life in their works, fully expressing inspiration, exploration, interpretation, reflection, and eulogy of life.
Human beings are born, exist, grow, and develop in an environment full of uncertainty, and strive to create comfort, tolerance, and abundance, and achieve certainty. With the leap of human cognition and the rapid development of modern science and technology, human beings have greatly, rapidly, continuously, and infinitely expanded their living space. While bringing comfort, they also have seriously damaged the natural environment and ecological balance, which forces humanity to face the consequences. This is exactly the proposition of the times that contemporary artists are deeply concerned about.
Pepe Hidalgo and Guo Yan both use mountains, river valleys and forests as backgrounds, even in fantasy. In their paintings, humans are no longer in the centre or the only subject. All things have animism, and humans are only a part of coexisting with the environment and participating in energy conversion. The two artists collaborated on paintings such as Back to Mount Ararat, Promised Land, Tower of Babel, Noah’s Ark in the 21st Century, and Enter the Garden of Dreams in a very romantic form, uncovering the play between humanity and its fate and environment.
Everything that Guo Yan created in her paintings is based on the real world, but it is not a replica of the real world. Plants, trees, spirits and life fill the picture, and consciousness transforms into spirits of the dark night, carefree and vigorous. Lives are flying and wandering in the mountains and forests. Brightly coloured light penetrates the vivid green, illuminating the scenes in the forest, either fresh, warm, or scorching, and abundant energy radiates willfully from the canvas. The old branches in the distance are strong and tenacious, and the new branches in the close-up are struggling to rise. The red branches spread like a weave of nerves and blood vessels, giving birth to a powerful life form. Those naked figures that have just been born are alive and kicking, but they also seem to be life that is alive after billions of years of reincarnation and replacement. The acquisition and endowment, release and acceptance of cosmic energy all are unfolded in her works, which are metabolized and endless.
Pepe Hidalgo mentioned in several interviews that he was expressing a moment, a certain time, or a certain situation. The unique time and space he constructs is absolutely separate from that of the audience. The moments he depicts are moments when time slows down or even stops, sometimes briefly, sometimes permanently. These spaces and times allow people to wander, traverse borders and dimensions, and return. In addition to stippling with what he calls atomic bubble-shaped dots, Pepe uses metaphors and symbols from the material cultural heritage of mankind to lead the audience through time and space between the past and the present. The scenes in his works not only look like civilizations lost in prehistoric times, but also like the magic and excellence constructed by technology in the distant future.
In this exhibition, Pepe Hidalgo’s four sets of triptychs show a positive timeline in his mind, a life cycle: Robotization, Genetic Engineering, Exploration of Another Planet, and The Fall of the Gods. Not to mention the definition of life by philosophy and religion, Pepe Hidalgo, as an artist, summarizes his profound thinking on life and uses the concept of time to summarize the beginning, development, end, and then starting point cycle, and uses his finishing touch “umbilical cord” to let himself shuttle between the past and the future. Sometimes he stands in the ancient times and asks questions about the present; sometimes he leaps into the future and reinterprets the history depicted in classical paintings. Although Hidalgo’s works are full of alterations, transformations, and variations, he did not actually “leave” the earth. It was the social environment in which he lived and the power of human reality that gave birth to every object and every life in his paintings.
We are all beings born on the earth, enjoying the vitality, aesthetics, empathy, pain, and pleasure that the world bestows on us. We have never missed the magnificent sunrise, never missed the blooming period, and never escaped any joy and sorrow. There are thousands of experiences in this life, so much to taste. When art moves us, it reveals hidden truths and allows us to see the world from a new prospect.
When we stand in front of the paintings of Guo Yan and Pepe Hidalgo, we see ourselves, the unknown, and the blooming of wisdom, art and life!
Toni Zhang McAfee
The Circle of Life – The Continuous Dialogue between
A Chinese Artist and A Spanish Artist
The Interview between Curator and Artist Guo Yan
Toni: You are going to have another two-person exhibition with artist Pepe Hidalgo at Lipont Gallery. Can you tell us more about your thought process while preparing for The Circle of Life exhibition?
Guo Yan: The Circle of Life can be interpreted as the instinctive resistance and counteract against the negative social environment. In the past couple of years, we cast most of our attention on the pandemic, the volcano eruption, death, and economic downturn. The Internet is swamped by negative content every day. In this era of information explosion, that makes us more anxious and vulnerable. However, art can be a healing method. It is something very much needed now. We chose March to present the exhibition because the spring season would come and all things would regain their vitality, giving us hope for this world. That holds very powerful psychological implications. We also hope that the pandemic could end soon and that our life will be back to normal again. Therefore, the new exhibition is about spring, life, and hope. It is also witness of the friendship and collaboration between Pepe and I in the past two years.
Our last joint exhibition, The Origins of Our Souls, was unveiled on November 10, 2020, where I showcased my Noah’s Ark series and The Boundary of Nature series. Those paintings were created before the pandemic, when I wanted to express concerns deeply rooted in my soul about reality, the environment, and the future. When there was no pandemic, I painted Noah’s Ark, but when the pandemic hit, I started to paint The Circle of Life. It seems that I’m never synchronized with the real world. As for Pepe, his works focused mainly on indoor sceneries that portrayed families and friends, trying to reflect subtle emotional connections. We are inspired and reference paintings of the historical art canon, and we aim to redefine them through our own language of painting. In my painting Noah’s Ark, the human beings finally find the promised land, the destination they have been longing for. Pepe has also redefined many classical works through his unique style, which digests and transforms our conventional visual perception. This time, he brings with him a large-scale work consisting of 12 paintings. It is magnificent.
Toni: How long have you known each other?
Guo: I met Pepe two years ago at an exhibition at Vancouver Lipont Art Centre. We didn’t have many exchanges back at that time because he speaks Spanish, and I speak Chinese. Though we could only communicate with our limited English, art became our shared language because art is boundless. Soon, we became friends and started to plan a collaboration. We are two people that would rarely have something in common in the real world as we have totally different lives and live in different places. However, we came across each other and our passion for art naturally led us to the discussion of working together. The story sounds unbelievable, just like the paintings we co-created – visually unmatched but full of unanticipated novelties before they were finished, and each one of them has some interesting stories behind the scenes.
Toni: How do you feel about your collaboration in the past two years? How did you find the process?
Guo: If it was in the past, it would be very hard for me to imagine that I would co-create a piece of work together with another artist because artistic creation is very personal. Collaborating involves too many factors, including the fundamental perception of artistic concepts and the mutual recognition of professionalism. We reached the consensus of our co-creation that maintaining our own unique languages and styles of painting should be the prerequisite of our collaboration to create a piece of work together. We had long discussions about the theme of our work, trying to narrow down the main theme of our vision. Pepe also sent me many pieces of literature and references about the themes we selected for our joint works. Such communication and discussion are also a process for us to learn from each other. For the past four decades, Pepe has dedicated himself to painting and reached a high level of professionalism with an intense workload. That is something I admire. Both of us moved to and settled down in Vancouver around six or seven years ago. It is not easy to find a creative partner like him. I value our friendship very much.
Toni: What is your impression of Pepe as an artist through the past two years of collaborating? I know that there are quite a number of galleries that want to invite you both for joint exhibitions. Do you have any plans after this exhibition?
Guo: Pepe is a person with a pure heart. He is also an artist who does not like following mundane routines or rules. He is also very Spanish – emotional, straightforward, and very himself. Just like his works, Pepe is the kind of person with a purity and happiness that is solely unique to him. He enjoys painting and holds an academic, rigorous attitude towards art. But he also has his own perspectives and opinions. He is an exceptional artist who keeps a low profile and is open-minded, and full of passion. He has an extremely sharp aesthetic taste and creative imagination. He has his own painting language and style, which is super important to an artist. That means he is mentally strong. With his unique artistic perception, he has established his own kingdom of art.
Pepe’s wife, Noreen, fully supports his work. Noreen speaks Spanish and English, and she helps translate between Pepe and I when we work. Noreen very kindly teaches me English with great patience. She is the best assistance to Pepe. Every time I meet with Noreen, I can tell that Pepe is surrounded by happiness.
There are many other things demanding our attention, but Pepe would focus most of his energy painting. Many art galleries in Canada are inviting him for exhibitions. Even during the pandemic, he held a solo exhibition in Alberta. Many galleries in China are sending us invitations as well. However, due to the excessive preparation, I am postponing the plans and hope to bring exhibitions to China after the pandemic is over.
The new works by Pepe displayed at this exhibition, according to my understanding, tell a narrative of everything in our universe, from the origin of human beings to the development of artificial intelligence. That is a tremendously big topic to deliver. I said to him that his new works remind me of the metaverse. Though not more than a concept, metaverse started to appear in his works many years ago when he began to paint round balls. He said those were molecules because the world is made of molecules. There is often a rope in his paintings. He explained that it was the umbilical cord connecting him and the world. I said to him that the idea was exactly as what Elon Musk conceptualized and that he expressed the idea through his surreal fantasy in a very artistic way.
Toni: Your works have received positive feedback from the art community and collectors alike, the gallery pre-sold many pieces before the exhibition. Could you please tell us more about your new works as well as the ones you co-created?
Guo: Actually, I didn’t think much about the market response when I was creating my paintings. The market is something out of our control. What we can do is to express the themes that we are interested in at this moment and try our best to deliver them. We were lucky that there were collectors who were interested in our works. I’d like to express my thanks to the collectors who supported our works. For this exhibition, I brought our new series, The Circle of Life. It describes the relationships between human beings and nature. I intentionally painted the human figures in a translucent tone and the tree branches in the colour of human arteries. It is bold. But what I want to convey is the integration of humans and all things in nature. It might be because of the romanticism deeply rooted in me that I’d like to deliver my best wishes towards human society within this uncertain period of time. Art is embedded in reality but, at the same time, strays away from it. When I was painting this series, I felt something pleasant arising from inside of me that comes from my love towards nature and my wish of becoming part of it. I enjoyed the process very much. I felt that I was creating a brand-new day every day and that I didn’t have enough time. Sometimes, I also feel unhappy with myself, but it was a sweet burden. The paintings become the evidence of the time that has passed by. They also mark the life I have led.
Because of our collaboration, I commuted to Pepe’s studio frequently. Once we were chatting next to the window, and we saw a small, gorgeous, blue-coloured bird resting on the rail of the terrace. Pepe told me that that was the bird he fed, and it visited him every day to greet him. While saying so, he grabbed some peanuts to feed the bird. I was amazed by the scene. I saw the harmony between humans and nature. That was something I would like to express in my painting: the greatness and insignificance of humans and all things in the universe.
Art knows no boundaries or geographic differences. With the shared perception of humans towards beauty, we completed eight paintings together in the past two years. Except for the one that we just finished; all the other ones have already been acquired by institutions. Though it was not an easy journey to complete the artworks together, we feel happy that they are being exhibited. I remember the moment when we started each painting and the joy that followed the completion of each piece. Throughout the process, both Pepe and I tried to complete the works with our own visual perception of art. The unique and distinct styles of ours led us to the same destination that we would like to reach.
The first piece of painting that we co-created is Back to Mount Ararat. The Book of Genesis records that after the Great Flood, the place that Noah’s Ark rests is Mount Ararat. It is a beautiful symbolic metaphor that describes our return to a new world.
The second co-creation is called Promised Land. It is a huge topic. The Promised Land is a God-blessed land that flows with milk and honey. Would it also be the land where artists’ creativity is nourished?
The third piece is called The Other Side of Dreams. I painted six people sitting on a small boat from an aerial view, while Pepe painted another six people next to the boat, echoing my part. The Other Side of Dreams is the uncertain expectations we have towards the unknown future as we are both immigrants from the other side of the world.
The fourth work is called Tower of Babel. This work holds important significance to us as two immigrant artists from other countries. It is the projection of our individual life experiences. God intentionally makes people speak different languages and creates diverse cultures. Pepe settled down in Vancouver about six or seven years ago, and I have been living here for more than six years as well. This work is about humans and nature, a narration about immigrant culture and the protection of our homes. The beautiful homeland in the distance and the roots growing under the Tower of Babel converge through the two artists who have totally different styles of painting.
The fifth work is Noah’s Ark in the 21st Century, which depicts people and animals on the shore, with a lighthouse standing in the distance on the blue ocean. The upper part of the painting was done by Pepe: day and night, illuminated by the sun and the moon. It is our best wishes towards humans and nature, as well as our aspiration to protect our homeland.
The sixth work is called Lively Garden of the Future. The Garden of the Future represents magic-realistic time travel. The upper part was created by Pepe, depicting a perfect family. The lower part is very typically of my style: a green garden of angels. Compared to the works introduced previously, this one has more vibrant colours.
The seventh is called Enter the Garden of Dreams. This work gives a very special visual presentation. I painted a traditional Chinese garden, while Pepe painted several people looking from the outside, ready to step into the garden. The stark traditional cultural contrast brings out a unique visual experience.
The eighth work is called Garden in Spring. This piece presents to the audience a painting within a painting: are those two people admiring the beautiful spring scenery outside the window or are they admiring a piece of oil painting? Different people would have different interpretations while watching this work. It might trigger their imagination. But for artists, their work is done when they finish the painting itself.
Toni: How has the pandemic impacted you in the past two years? How was your experience working with galleries during these past few years?
Guo: The pandemic has calmed the world down and slowed it down. We started to think about the questions that we never had the chance to think about. My daily life is very simple and follows the same routine. I go to my studio almost every morning. After a cup of tea and with a clear mind, I start painting until the evening when I go back home. Sometimes, there would be some social events, but not many. Most of the time, I spend my days alone in my studio. In fact, it has been my conscious choice to put myself in a relatively self-isolated state. From time to time, I also go to exhibitions. Of course, there were not many exhibitions during the pandemic. For painters, we need a quiet environment and need to let go of distractions to allow independent thinking. I very much enjoy my current state, having an independent space for me to do what I love, and with tremendous support from my family. Usually, I only look ahead and work on my paintings without caring about other things. So, I feel that I am lucky to be able to live a life like this.
Toni: I know that you have been traveling between China and Canada. How do you feel about your life in Canada in these years?
Guo: I have been staying in Canada without traveling back to China for three years due to the pandemic. As a matter of fact, I could live anywhere as long as I have the basic necessities. My social life is very limited because I spend most of my time in my studio. I have several artist friends who share the same aspirations as me in both China and Canada. China is developing very fast, and life there is enriched with all kinds of activities. But that also means more social activities for me. Canada, on the other hand, is a country of immigrants, with picturesque sceneries, honest people, and diverse cultures. My life is very simple. To merge with Canada requires me to actively keep an open mind, while accepting the differences caused by language, culture, and customs. Never treat yourself as an outsider. The life of early generations of immigrants was tough. They have created a better social environment for the coming generations of new immigrants. We should feel grateful for their contribution. In the past two years, I have been working even harder because of my collaboration with Pepe. He is such an amazing artist.
Toni: As a female artist, what are your thoughts on female identities during your artistic creation?
Guo: I give little thought to that during my career because I believe that art has no gender preference. There is discrimination against women because it is, in the end, a male-dominated society. I participate in some exhibitions of female artists every year. I am also a member of many female artist groups on WeChat and have many female artist friends. We always support each other, though we are not active chatters on social media because the overdeveloped Internet has already interfered with our daily life. The studio where I used to work had no Internet connection. All I did was painting or reading when I was there. Emails were only replied to after I returned home. However, we can access the Internet anytime now with our mobile phones. Our time becomes fragmented. This impact could be significant if one does not have strong self-discipline. I also donate my works occasionally to charities supporting young girls. I believe that, as a female artist, I have the responsibility to attend to and promote the social status of women in our society. Rights can only be earned through our own efforts. Respect for women is also a criterion of social civilization. Women, or in general, people, are less respected in places where people are ignorant.
Toni: As a professional artist who has practiced art for many years, what is your opinion on the so-called institutions and alternatives in the world of art?
Guo: I rarely think about that question. Like writing, painting is the representation of one’s secret world. I started to keep my distance from institutional influence early in my career. Or in other words, I have always been the alternative that fails to align myself with institutions. It seems that, for so many years, I only followed my own pace. Maybe it is because I had a relatively less demanding family environment. I graduated from the Department of Painting from Xi’an Academy of Fine Arts in 1995. I have been practicing painting since then. I never spent any time in the institutional system, and I don’t like to be limited or controlled. I am a free spirit, I would say. Therefore, I feel that I can rarely be influenced by a certain kind of popular cultural perception. After practicing visual arts for so many years, I have developed my own system of aesthetic perception, which cannot be easily altered by external factors. Anything that fits me is the best. The aesthetic standards are set by my own perception.
It is the same when it comes to the discussion of the mainstreams and the alternatives within the arts. Maybe someone would consider him/herself a powerful influencer in a certain community. But what if that community itself is the alternative already? It is like the social media feed you post. Only your friends who follow you on social media and happen to be online can see it, and your post might not even be interesting to them. Each one of us lives in our own small world, which is extremely tiny. The fact is that many people think they have a greater influence, but they do not. Besides, there will be a metaverse in the future, a decentralized virtual world established on blockchains. In that scenario, being institutional or not is a more absurd proposition. The influence of an artist consists of many factors. It can never be judged by one single value system. Such influence can be time-transcendent, and the people living in that era just fail to be aware of that. For example, Pepe is a very special artist. He has a super brain capable of exercising wild sci-fi imagination. We can always see multi-dimensional space in his works. On the other hand, he said that my recent artistic practice was experiencing a stage of colour explosion. That makes our paintings so different in style. But that difference has made our collaboration an exciting and interesting journey. I feel deeply honoured to have the opportunity to work with a great artist like Pepe.
Toni: Your collaboration with Pepe Hidalgo has produced very successful art pieces in the past two years. Will the two of you be joining hands again in the future?
Guo: Of course, there will be opportunities for future collaborations. But I’d rather let our co-creation take its own course. Human civilization evolves because of the migration of human beings. It is a journey of communication, exchanges, and mutual influences. I still remember that I received the book, One Hundred Years of Solitude, as a gift from a friend when I was young. I didn’t know it was a world-famous literary masterpiece. I tried to finish it, but I only got confused because of the complicated relationships between different characters and all the hard-to-remember names. So, I didn’t finish reading it in the end. Now, when I recall the magic-realistic approach of the book, I feel that it very much resembles my collaboration with Pepe: crossing the differences of time, geographic locations, and culture, with ineffable complexity. Outside the limited verbal communication, there exists unlimited artistic possibilities. It is fascinating because of its realistic and, at the same time, magical sides. It is just like art itself that can never be defined.