Anna Wong: Traveller on Two Roads

Burnaby Art Gallery, Burnaby, BC

By Michael Turner
The passing of master printmaker Anna Wong (1930-2013) marked the end of an extraordinary life of a member of an im-portant Vancouver family. One of 10 children born to Modernize Tailors founder Gung Lai Wong and Man Ming, Anna Wong studied Chinese brush painting in Hong Kong before majoring in creative printmaking at the Vancouver School of Art. At the age of 36 she moved to New York to study at Pratt, where she then taught for 20 years, returning to Vancouver each summer to teach at a school of her own.
As much as this retrospective is devoted to over 70 of Wong’s paintings, hand-pulled prints and large-scale textile pieces, it also functions as a life map, inscribed with parallel movements, what it means to be in two places at once. For Wong, “place” includes her hyphenated status as a Chinese-Canadian, but also her life in Vancouver and New York, and later, the continuum of urban life and life at her rural studio on Quadra Island.
In their exhibition introduction, co-curators Ellen van Eijnsbergen and Jennifer Cane put it succinctly: “Whether Wong was creating work in the city or in her isolated West Coast studio, she was always working with images in stark contrast from her present surroundings: establishing an ‘elsewhere’ through tableaux of fir and maple leaves while living in Manhattan; or through scenes of the Great Wall and Mount Gongga while making art in Vancouver. These works represent two parallel journeys of self, and in this exhibition we have attempted to accompany her on those travels.”

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