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China to Canada: A Prairie Connection

   
 


(l-r) Karen Cornelius, Winnipeg artist, Ray Dirks, Curator of the Mennonite Heritage Centre Gallery, and artist Liang Yu. Cornelius, guest curator of the Prairie Connections exhibit, invited Yu to show his art in Winnipeg as a result of connection she made to Chinese artists during several working trips to China. – photo by Beibei Lu

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White male and Chinese male looking at art
The Honourable Philip S. Lee, Manitoba’s Lieutenant Governor, requested a private showing of Prairie Connections with gallery, pictured here with gallery curator Ray Dirks. Lee, of Chinese descent, took a special interest in the exhibit. – photo by Hong Deng

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White male and Chinese male looking at art
Signal Series III, silkscreen, by Liang Yu

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August 24, 2012
-Dan Dyck, with reports

Winnipeg, Man. — The flat lands of Manitoba’s wide Red River valley bottom would seem to have little in common with northern China – unless you’ve seen the expansive silkscreen prints of Chinese artist Liang Yu.

The Prairie Connection exhibit of Yu’s art at the Mennonite Heritage Centre Gallery immediately resonates with the prairie dweller. Many scenes, featuring old iron from China’s Russian influenced steam locomotive era, would be equally at home in Ninga, Manitoba – a prairie town that once thrived as a result of rail transport (see archival post card from Ninga at www.scaa.sk.ca/gallery/postcards/permalink/33979).

Winnipeg artist Karen Cornelius, who is guest curator of the exhibit with Geraldine Taylor, has developed some important ties to Chinese artists as a result of several working trips to China. These connections helped bring Yu’s art to the Gallery.

Yu, who is described as a renowned painter and printmaker at the peak of his career in China, was selected to contribute art for the cultural component of the recent 2012 summer Olympics in London. His art has been featured at the National Art Museum in Beijing, and he serves as Executive Vice President of the Guangdong Artists Association.

Yu grew up in a prairie landscape in northeast China. His father’s work with the railway left Yu with deep childhood memories of trains, rail signaling systems and Russian-influenced train stations. His isolated scenes are dominated by the big prairie sky.

Prairie Connections drew the interest of the Honourable Philip S. Lee, Manitoba’s Lieutenant Governor, who requested a private showing prior to the public opening event after meeting with Yu. Lee is of Chinese descent.

The exhibit advances the Gallery’s niche mission of using art to bring together people of different or no faith. Prairie Connections offers a unique yet familiar taste of an artist featured at the 2012 London Olympics.

It may be as close to the Olympics as many Winnipeggers get.