–submitted by Sharyn Alden; photos by Donna Beestman
On April 7 the Cultural Awareness Fellowship Group met at VIP Asian Cuisine on Madison’s West side for a lively evening starting with a buffet dinner featuring several different dishes of Asian cuisine. Following a dessert of various ice cream choices ala Asian-style (this Rotarian sampled a delicious rendition of green tea ice cream), we pulled up chairs to enjoy an enlightening presentation about Chinese culture, Feng Shui and Chinese brush painting from Wei Dong, UW-Madison professor, artist and designer.
Professor Dong, who has been in the U.S. for 30 years and became a Professor a UW-Madison in 2000, heads the Design Studies Department of the School of Human Ecology. Within the first 2 weeks of being in the Midwest he visited Frank Lloyd’s masterpiece, Fallingwater” in Mill Run, Pennsylvania. He gravitated to the Midwest, and especially Madison because of his strong interest in the design elements of the architects, I.M. Pei and Frank Lloyd Wright.
“I was greatly influenced by them in my constant search of learning how opposite elements connect in combination with balance, nature and harmony,” Professor Dong said. “Everything has two opposites,” he said. “I look at everything this way –how elements construct and deconstruct each other. This is a philosophical life approach.”
He continued his presentation by talking about the concept of opposites in ying and yang the affect it has in Feng Shui. Summing up the complexity of invisible energy and balance, he said, “You can teach Feng Shui in 5 minutes but it takes 50 years to practice.”
The piece de resistance of the evening came next. Professor Dong demonstated how he paints using more than one piece of rice paper layered on top of each other. This approach leaves much to the imagination on the back of the first sheet of paper as well as other layers. “Why draw everything?” he asked. “The Western way of drawing is more focused than Chinese art,” he noted. He showed that with examples of the same scene drawn from both the Chinese and western approach.
He added that drawing on both sides of the paper is the ying and yang approach. Then he provided examples of how Chinese paintings allow for spaces between various design elements instead of focuses on every detail. The point, he said is to intrigue the imagination.
For those who have not discovered the beauty of Professor Dong’s inspirational art, you can experience it at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMOCA) during a one-of-a-kind design showcase April 30-May 8 featuring a collection of exciting work from top designers. The exhibit is free and open to the public.