Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Sermon on Creativity

I went on a blog hiatus for a while. I found myself knee deep this past Autumn in art education, as I have returned to school. Now I am waist deep in work and will soon be neck deep once I begin my practicum. Don't expect any image heavy posts any time soon, folks.

I've been thinking non-stop about the purpose of art education. Now that I've merged into a stream of classes with teacher candidates from other specializations, I've learned how others perceive art and how it is presumed to be assessed in a school setting. My main concern up to this point was how I will be able to teach art (in its entire complex tangible and intangible state) to my students, yet I should be concerned with how I will teach art to my colleagues.

One of the great debates this week was the validity of creativity as a method of assessment. How do we mark it? I, and many of my art education peers don't believe it should be a criteria. After a frustrating debate within a seminar the other day, I have become increasingly vexed, and set aside some assignments to try and work it out.

Oh, even an experienced educator couldn't articulate the nature of art assessment. She could only liken it to "putting a cat in a bag."

Anyway, here's what I worked out...


Creativity I believe is inherent within all people. As teachers we are meant to set up the conditions in which this type of intelligence is exemplified and encouraged. It is within this environment that I think students would be able to deviate from traditional learning expectations and take risks and explore ideas while feeling safe to do so. The staff within a school cannot solely rely on art, music, and drama classrooms to exemplify and encourage creativity. I believe creativity is an interdisciplinary practice and its abstract and organic qualities have the ability to appear in any situation regardless of discipline.

The challenge for the art teacher, much of the time, is trying to pry open the hard academic-based shells that some of these students develop and to keep it open. The majority of the core subjects have been introduced through linear and convergent learning. When I only have my students for a small fraction of the school week, it can be daunting to pull out some of that individual expression and get them to hold on to it and have them believe that it can light the way in other aspects of life. When the students leave the class they return to the monotony of the school day and this type of thinking is dulled down again. I believe it would be helpful for teachers of all departments to collaborate and find ways to make the connections necessary to stimulate divergent thinking, so that creativity simply becomes an expectation rather than an argument.

I find creativity to be extremely valuable, but I don't believe it is a legitimate category to assess a student for. I would look for specific ways of expressing how creativity can be displayed within an assignment or project, other than using this vague blanket statement. Teachers must constantly remind themselves that the arts do not have monopoly over this word either! I only speak from an art perspective because my most creative spirit is aligned with the visual arts- that has been my life long outlet. The values I have learned from art are to think for myself, to critically evaluate the world around me, and to recognize the significance my voice brings to my community and society. These are skills that I can use until the day I die, and I would imagine is true for others as well.

Creativity in relation to art has little to do with pure aesthetic beauty or representational semblance and definitely is not about conceptual negligence. It is very true that painting for instance, has its own inherent joys and materiality that cannot be replicated in other mediums or expressive forms. However, when one comes to understand the materiality fully, a conceptual framework must be created to provide structure and meaning for the work. This critical thinking is what helps students question visual information and take a moment to compare the effectiveness of a Delacroix allegorical painting to a Dan Flavin fluorescent light. Making art is based on passion and embodied knowledge, but it is also about finding purpose and function, not arbitrary reasoning. I would like to believe that teachers introduce the lessons they do in order to create purpose. Art has a purpose! Creativity, dog-gone-it has a purpose! But neither function in a vacuum. We must get past this belief that creativity is an option and be the creativity we desire to see.

Saturday, August 27, 2011



SEPTEMBER 3-25 2011


The garden is a man-made space where we, as humans, negotiate our relationship with nature, our fascination with observation, and our desire to influence the behaviour of our environment. A garden itself is a minute representation of the natural world. The Ming Dynasty garden exemplifies the complexity between physical and spiritual connectivity to nature. The sensitive equilibrium between tangibility and ethereality is what generates ongoing interest in the classical Chinese garden.

This exhibition investigates the space within the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Garden through multiple perspectives- the historical, the contemporary, and the imagined. Each piece in the exhibit acts as a viewfinder revealing the microcosmic as well as the macrocosmic nature of this garden. This series of works is inspired by the folklore of P'u Sung-Ling, Chinese myths, documented occurrences during the construction of the Dr. Sun Yat Sen garden, and observational drawings.

The title of this exhibition is borrowed from the book of the same name by the Qing dynasty writer, P'u Sung-Ling. The use of the title denotes the myth that artists create for themselves within the realm of the studio and the inexplicable process of art-making. The self-reflexivity of the title also refers to the series being created within an historic block of Chinatown, a few steps away from the garden itself.

My hope is that the viewer will discover new entry ways into exploring the functionality of the garden after observing these drawings and paintings.

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden
578 Carrall Street
Vancouver, BC

Opening Times:
7 days a week

*By donation after 5.30pm*

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

These Days

Beware folks, Jessica Jang is up to stuff. After a nutzoid July of full time work in addition to 20-30 hours per week in the studio, I've escaped to Europe once again. I spent my first week in London and now I'm in the Czech Republic chillaxin'. I'm still working on a few post-studio activities, working on one more drawing, and making arrangements for my solo exhibition in September, but it's mostly been casual times. Cooking, baking, hiking, picking fruit, hanging out with fun people and walking animals have filled up my days.

I made some finger sized hot dogs before I left Vancouver, as peace offerings.

This is a work in progress. In my packing haze, I made the doofus move of bringing four HB pencils with me. Argh. I'm a 6B/8B kind of kid, so when I finally buckled down to work, this made procrastinating much more desirable.

Turtle walking.

Blurry Teasers

Here are some poorly documented snippets from my new series, Strange Stories From a Chinese Studio. COMING TO YOU SEPTEMBER 2011! Top image courtesy of an anonymous child.

Friday, July 15, 2011


Creating detailed studies for final pieces is not typical of my way of doing things; but this project deadline makes me nervous, as there is little space for error or waste. So, here are some gouache prelims.

The one with the dead foxes comes from the story, The Trader's Son, by P'u Sung-Ling. A ghost, in many Asian tales, comes in the form of a fox. The fox often disguises itself as a human. In this tale, foxes terrorize a woman in the night, which also alters her waking life. In the end (story spoiler coming up...) they drink poisoned wine and are found dead behind a bush.

This one is just an experiment. It's sort of a Chinese version of Sir John Everett Millais's Ophelia- an all time favourite of many, including myself. Many people, probably don't know me as a painter of figures, but that was my primary interest for a big chunk of art school. I don't know how I feel about this gouache piece. I will not include this or anything like it in the exhibition, but I thought I'd post it anyway.

This is a taihu rock. I want to make the face of the rock more spooky- in a Scooby-Doo kinda way.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Studio Life

Studio time- power up! I've got a special project creeping up and my pal, Tara Carmichael, has generously offered her studio to me for this month. Tara's an awesome artist, arts educator, Mom, and an all round, super fun person. Thank you Tara!

I thought I'd attempt to document my process (aka painful struggle) as I get this new series completed by the end of July. The exhibition will be in September, but I'm jetting back to the UK and Czech Republic for the entire month of August, so I gotta hustle.

Here are some pictures of things around me and examples of sketches that will not necessarily make sense to anyone but myself.

Tara's deep sea painting and the resident octopus.

Saturday, June 25, 2011