VIDEO: UAlberta painter first to exhibit at Chinese university

Groundbreaking show offers Chinese students a window on the evolution of Western art.


Jesse Thomas describes his art as “finding ways to combine abstraction and figuration to tell a story.” His paintings are multi-layered and provocative, often rich in colour, sometimes political without bludgeoning the viewer with a message.

Last fall the University of Alberta painting professor took more than 50 of his paintings and drawings to the Zhengzhou University of Light Industry in China—the first foreigner to show his work there and the first faculty member from the Department of Art and Design to hold a solo exhibition in China.

Entitled Aesthetic Histories, the show was a hit, says Thomas. Patrons, especially Chinese art students, were hungry for work that combined Western imagery in novel ways.

“Their access to Western imagery began sometime in the early 80s, so rather than a natural evolution through the whole process of cubism and the various levels of abstraction that followed in modernism, it was all dropped in their lap at once, presenting interested artists with the great challenge of unravelling a century of foreign art history and pictorial strategy,” said Thomas.