Arts·Opening Up

Jean Huang's dual-layer paintings are time capsules for our feelings about the pandemic

The Vancouver artist hopes to create an archive that we can look back on after the pandemic is over.

The Vancouver artist hopes to create an archive that we can look back on after the pandemic is over

The Vancouver artist hopes to create an archive that we can look back on after the pandemic is over 4:06

In Opening Up, the sequel to our self-shot video series COVID Residencies, we're asking artists how the upheavals and uprisings of 2020 are affecting their process and work.

When Vancouver artist Jean Huang began discussing the pandemic with her family and friends, a common word that kept popping up in conversations was "uncertainty." So Jean decided to explore this within her artwork and used the word as the base — literally — of her new art series Time Capsule.

"I began this project as a way to explore our shared feelings during the pandemic," she says. "Each piece is a visual representation of a conversation surrounding these feelings.

Time Capsule is an ongoing series of dual-layer paintings that are created based on a conversation/interview with various subjects. Huang asks participants a set of questions based on uncertainty and calmness:

What colours do you associate with uncertainty?
What textures do you associate with uncertainty?
What things do you associate with uncertainty?
What colours do you associate with calmness?
What textures do you associate with calmness?
What things do you associate with calmness?

(Jean Huang/CBC Arts)

After the talk, Jean gathers details from the answers to create a dual-layer abstract painting. The base layer, which is done on paper, is a combination of thoughts surrounding uncertainty. The transparent layer, which is done on a clear sheet of polyester film, is the combination of thoughts surrounding calmness. She explains: "Instead of completely covering up uncertainty with calmness, a lot of uncertain parts remain visible to suggest that imagination, beauty and possibilities can be found in times of uncertainty."

In this video, watch Huang's 35th piece of the Time Capsule series come to life and witness excerpts from one of Huang's intimate conversations with fellow artist Caitlin Jeffrey a.k.a. Gentle Decay.

Huang intends to continue this series. If you are interested in being a subject, you can find her on Instagram.

(Jean Huang/CBC Arts)

About the Author

As a young child, March Mercanti would play with his action figures for countless hours because he was obsessed with telling stories...to himself. Currently, March is a filmmaker living in Toronto, ON. He works at CBC Arts creating documentaries for artists across Canada.

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