The Art of New Narratives

During December at Queen City 15 Gallery visitors can enjoy “New Narratives” featuring the artworks of two of the collective’s artists; Emmanuel Ofori and Zheng Xuewu. Although both artists work in different mediums, their work is rooted in their birthplace. The exhibit speaks of the artists’ cultural heritage, telling a story of their history while reflecting on the place they now call home.

Zheng Xuewu presents his latest printmaking and includes the installation of “Century Text.” This artwork promotes cross-cultural learning and was created from newspapers collected throughout the world and tightly rolled into thin rods. Xuewu then ties the rods together creating rolled scrolls. A table centered below the prints holds these rolled scrolls, appearing as an altar that holds precious objects.

The “Time and Life” prints on exhibit show Xuewu’s recent work that has become looser while continuing to reference the meaning of auspicious Chinese characters. Although the first appearance is that the artist uses Chinese characters in honor of his heritage, his viewpoint derives chiefly as a citizen of the world and the Chinese is his contribution into the cultural mix.

Abstract painting by Chinese artist
Chinese Icon #2, Xuewu Zheng

Much of Xuewu’s work is created by tiny, repetitive movements, whether in the stamping onto paper, rolling newspaper into scrolls, or twisting tiny bits of paper; combined these gestures create artworks with monumental meaning. He commented that “Meditation is the content of my life and my work.” In some of his most recent prints, Xuewu has added more nuance through written notes over the top of the stylized stamped characters.

Emmanuel Ofori’s latest work faces Xuewu’s in the gallery – underscoring the naming of the exhibit “New Narratives.” Ofori’s Ghanaian culture merges with his current American life in his most recent work of three-dimensional portraits. He stated, “I wanted to experiment on the idea of what a typical portrait could be by melding three-dimensional with two-dimensional elements, while highlighting/celebrating my culture and race.”

“Odo Ni Asomdwe” by Emmanuel Ofori

Ofori’s artworks are exhibited as paintings on the gallery walls, however, the portraits have been carved and appear as sculptural paintings. In “Akuaba,” a vibrant woman wears her hair as a crown, and is dressed in a traditional Kente cloth dress. In the relief painting, “Zion,” the person is holding the picture frame and the cloak wrapped around his shoulders moves outside of the picture frame. The variety of Ofori’s portraits runs from dignified to fun, including the painting, “Odo Ni Asomdwe” with a youth holding out a peace sign with his fingers, framing his smiling face. Most of the people depicted in his paintings wear Kente cloth, containing traditional colors of gold, yellow, green, blue, red, and black – each color symbolizing Ghanaian traits and aspirations.

Ghanian woman with stylized components
Emmanuel Ofori exhibits his sculptural paintings at Queen City Gallery – shown here, “Akuaba.”

“New Narratives” feature exhibit: Emmanuel Ofori and Zheng Xuewu.

Queen City 15 Gallery is located at 317 Main Street, Poughkeepsie.

This is an edited version of an article published in the Poughkeepsie Journal December, 13 2020.

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