Kenny’s first solo show at Pearl

The second show of the 2011 season at the Pearl Ellis Gallery, The Journey, runs from Feb. 2 to 14.

The second show of the 2011 season at the Pearl Ellis Gallery, The Journey, runs from Feb. 2 to 14.

This show features the work of local artist Zita Kenny.

Kenny moved to the Valley in 2007 from Duncan and has recently joined the Pearl Ellis Gallery. Her work was seen in members’ shows in 2010, but this is her first solo effort. She has an impressive collection of work and will have about 50 pieces in this show. She specializes in Chinese brush painting and her repertoire includes landscapes, birds and delicate floral renderings.

While living in Vancouver in 1988, she went by chance one day to Woodward’s, where she saw a crowd of people and out of curiosity joined them to see what they were looking at. It was a picture of a peony rendered by Chinese artist Nyzel Seto. Kenny was immediately captivated and when the artist introduced himself and invited her to join a class, she jumped at the chance. The class consisted of eight trainees who spent a tough first year not creating any work, but merely studying brushstrokes. Kenny became fully engrossed in this style of painting that involved not only special techniques, but also a philosophy of Eastern culture and way of life.

Each lesson would begin with a story — “The peony represents a noble, regal lady; the willow is strength and flexibility …” Her respect for the artist grew as she began to learn more and started creating paintings in this unique style that still dominates her work to this day.

While in Vancouver studying under Seto, the class would go on field trips and occasionally were visited by Seto’s father, who taught them to use visualization: “Imagine a mountain, with mist curling … bamboo trees, the colour and texture of the sky, sunlight dappling the scene … imagine rocks …” Kenny says that her artwork and the Eastern philosophy learned with Seto is as integral to her life as eating, drinking and breathing, and has given new form to the landscapes, birds and flowers which form the bulk of her work today.

In 1992, she moved to Duncan with her husband and her four years of studying with Seto came to an end. As an honour from her teacher, she received an oriental rendering in calligraphy of her name, with which she signs all her pieces.

The artist and her husband Wilf travelled extensively by motorhome and she always had her painting box with her, painting lots of deserts, sunrises and sunsets. She found a ready market for her work that hangs in homes across the U.S. and Canada.

Today, Kenny goes on walks with a sketchpad, but instead of sketching fully, only hints at what she wishes to include in her finished work. She doesn’t use photographs or pre-draw on her paper, simply “visualizes” and paints. She uses mulberry paper, special Chinese brushes and Chinese black ink with watercolours — these staples are an integral part of her work.

There will be a meet-and-greet with the artist on Saturday, Feb. 5 from 1 to 4 p.m. Kenny will be in attendance as often as possible throughout the show, and if she is unable to attend, there will be someone on hand who is familiar with her work and can answer questions.

The Pearl Ellis Gallery is open from 1 to 4 p.m. daily, and is located on the lower level of 1729 Comox Ave.

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