Ink Oasis Exhibition: The Art of Life

Balance is key. While balance may not be a concept we’re accustomed to at Phillips Academy, it is what the art of Chinese painting is all about. Jennifer Fan ’09 is the founder of Ink Oasis, an on-campus club that meets every two weeks to learn about and create Chinese paintings. Many of the club’s members had never been exposed to Chinese painting before. “At first I was sure I would fail miserably,” confessed member Carolyn Whittingham ’11. “I never dreamed I could go to a club after school and create a masterpiece.” But that’s exactly what Whittingham and the other members of Ink Oasis ended up doing. Under the instruction of Fan, the club members quickly learned that Chinese painting is not an art limited to masters. Michael Yoon ’10 said, “I was surprised by how Chinese painting worked. It’s very simple and easy to do.” Although Fan is exceptionally interested in allowing as many people as possible to see the beauty of Chinese art, she has a larger goal. Fan intends to sell the finished works she and the other members of the club create in order to raise the money necessary to build a medical clinic in Ningxia, China. She plans to raise this money by publishing a book, “Ink Song,” and printing postcards featuring many of her own impressive works and those of other Ink Oasis members. Abbas Torabi, a resident of North Andover who has read Fan’s book, said, “It immediately catches your attention that she’s an amazing artist. She has a talent for putting colors together that brings her painting to life.” The first event showcasing her work was last Saturday afternoon at the Memorial Hall Library in downtown Andover. The Chinese paintings of Fan and more than 20 other Phillips Academy students are currently on display. Ink Oasis’ next event will take place on April 26 in Starbucks. Attendees are encouraged to buy paintings and give donations at both events. Fan’s demonstration at Memorial Hall Library was well attended, mostly by older Chinese couples and their children, but also by about a dozen Phillips Academy students, teachers and faculty. Fan gave an introduction of her art and an explanation of her plans for the money raised, followed by a demonstration of Chinese painting. “It’s like playing with magic because rice paper [a type of paper frequently used for Chinese drawings] acts very differently from Western art paper,” Fan said. Rice paper is much more absorbent than Western paper, which means mistakes are permanent and cannot be covered up with another color or paint. The audience watched silently for 15 minutes as Fan painted. Despite the pressure, Fan’s hand did not slip. When she held up the tree and misty mountains she had drawn, the entire audience murmured, “Ohhh.” After Fan’s performance, Ink Oasis members Whittingham, Yoon, and Jasmine Stovall used toothbrushes and tiny containers of paint to splash leaves onto the tree. Many of the young children in the audience got up and tried their hand at it too. Although a few leaves ended up floating over the mountain instead of on tree branches, the painting was impressive, especially considering the speed and ease with which it was painted. Afterwards, both the Andover Chinese Chorus and Xi Yang Yang Music Ensemble performed several upbeat Chinese pieces. After the show, many of the audience members bought Ink Oasis’ and Fan’s works. Members of Ink Oasis said that viewing the finished art is only part of the fun, while actually painting is something else altogether. “It’s less like painting and more like an experience,” said Stephen Levy ’09.