Ginseng as you’ve never seen it before

Ginseng Root Studies 16 (series), 2005, archival pigment print.  - courtesy Evan Lee and Monte Clark Gallery
Ginseng Root Studies 16 (series), 2005, archival pigment print.
— image credit: courtesy Evan Lee and Monte Clark Gallery

An opening reception is Saturday for a new exhibition at Richmond Art Gallery.

Elders and Roots by Vancouver artist Evan Lee features scanned images of ginseng roots and drawings of elderly Chinese women. The exhibition, guest curated by Bill Jeffries, shows the cultural affinities between them.

“A lot of my works are based on photography, but I experiment with photography and do things like trying to avoid the use of a camera,” said Lee in a video interview with the gallery.

Three different works comprise the show: a series of pictures called “Ginseng Roots Studies,” a series of drawings entitled “Old Women,” and the video installation “Manual Labour.”

His ginseng images were captured not with a camera, but a desktop scanner, which allowed him to make 36 high-resolution pictures without using large format film. Each of the roots in the series were purchased at a local supermarket. His drawings also number 36. He created them from photographs he took of elderly Chinese women walking, working and resting on the streets of East Vancouver. His video piece is a series of photographs depicting a man working in a residential construction site.

All of his subjects came from the everyday—including the ginseng root, which is a memory from his childhood.

“Our parents would take us around to the shops in Chinatown. They would point out the ginseng in the shop windows, and say, ‘Don’t they look like little people?’ I remembered that. When I decided to do the ginseng series, it was in order to recreate that.”

Lee’s personified roots will later stretch beyond the gallery’s walls. Lee said he has plans to install them in a public art piece in the future, so viewers can “mingle” with the ginseng in Richmond.

All three pieces are linked, and the exhibition’s theme is laid out in its title—one of migration, respect for your elders and the plight of the aged.

Lee, who holds a master’s degree in fine arts from University of B.C., said he enjoys changing the media he works with and experimenting with technology.

Said Lee: “Unfortunately the way technology is now it’s not the same as it was before, where you could literally turn something upside down and use it to make something completely different. It’s so much more complicated now.”

Elders and Roots

•A new art exhibition from Evan Lee at Richmond Art Gallery April 26 to June 15

•Opening reception, open to the public, is Saturday, April 26, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the gallery (7700 Minoru Gate); admission by donation

•Artist will give a talk Saturday, May 31 from 2 to 3 p.m.

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