Sunday, September 20, 2020

American Embassy presents a pottery workshop

As a way of contributing to the booming development of contemporary art in Botswana, the American Embassy sponsored a pottery workshop organized at Thapong Visual Arts Centre in Gaborone, Botswana.

The Embassy, staged this through the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Department’s ‘Art in Embassies Program’ to share her skill with local artists and children from SOS Village in Tlokweng and Stepping Stone in Mochudi.

It was a great moment for local artists to receive a professional artist by the name of Leigh Wen. She is an internationally acclaimed artist who specializes in oil and pottery. Leigh was born and raised in a small country village of Taipei, Taiwan. According to her, she grew up close to nature and spent her years exploring art and ceramics with other artists of her village. She studied at the National Taiwan University of Art and later migrated to the United States where she earned a bachelor of Fine Art Degree from Washington State University. She later earned both a Master of Arts and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the State University of New York at Albany.

Leigh has been exhibiting internationally for over 20 years. Her work is featured in a number of corporate and private collections. She is also involved with the ‘Art in Embassies program’ that exhibits her work in American embassies in Hong Kong, Botswana, Jordan, Barbados, Manila and Singapore, among others. She is also a recipient of fellowship from the New York Foundation for Arts and Helena Rubenstein Foundation, as well as a highly coveted grant from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation.

Further more, she told Sunday Standard that her paintings express personal and cultural histories.
“Having grown up on the island of Taiwan, I have a deep affinity for the elemental power of water and forces of nature”. She also told Sunday Standard that as a Chinese living in America, she felt the ebb and flow of competition of cultures. She always remembers her ancient philosophies of her homeland, which teach self-discipline and selflessness, collide and mingle with Western notions of ego, alienation, and desire. Her working method is a process of subtraction from darkness to light.

She carved into the paint with a style to bring forth the individual lines that are the central motif of her work. The lines flow across the canvas in rhythms and frequencies that create depths and swells on the painted surface. She also uses colour to expand the work’s emotional range: her palette is drawn not from appearance but from the lyric and psychic necessities of her art.

There is uniform of line, from edge to edge and painting to painting, implies a suppression of the artist’s hand in objectivity learned from nature. In spite of this, the work remains deeply autobiographical. She works in several different media, including printmaking, ceramics and engraving.

In addition, she told Sunday Standard that it was a great pleasure to work with the talented Batswana artists. She was also impressed by most artists with multi disciplines in ceramics, painting, printmaking and others. By working with the children at the ‘Stepping Stone’, she realized the children in Botswana are very passionate about art. It was a joyful moment for them because they were working and dancing at the same time.

Parents have to realize that there is no better way to make more children engaged, focused than through art. Artists at Thapong came to the workshop with the same enthusiasm. “They are showing the interest to learn everything they can and working on extensive hours with out stopping. It is important for me to learn about the art in Botswana”.
It is also an extremely active art community. She said that all artists are genuine; they share and support each other. She describes Botswana as the most harmonious art community that she has ever seen.

“I hope we can work on more culture exchange programs with the States by bringing Botswana artists to show us their art in the future.”

She added that the art’s culture in Botswana will be very valuable to the artists in the States. The native culture is every important to be known. She ended by saying, I am very grateful for the Ambassador’s invitation to visit and thank her for embracing the art community in Botswana.

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Sunday Standard September 20 – 26

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 20 - 26, 2020.