Amy Loewan displays the rice-paper panels

Amy Loewan displays the rice-paper panels

Exhibit evokes viewer reflection

Amy Loewan hopes her Nanaimo Art Gallery display inspires viewers to look inward for peace

It’s all about the basics for Amy Loewan.

She draws on simple materials, like rice paper and ink, themes of dark and light as well as her Chinese heritage for the new installation at the campus Nanaimo Art Gallery.

Using eight words – compassion, kindness, respect, understanding, patience, tolerance, gentleness and forgiveness – Loewan weaves them together into eight hanging panels.

As the viewer sees the interwoven words in almost three dozen languages, they contemplate the meaning of peace.

“They reverberate in over 35 different languages,” Loewan said. “There are so many more words that are equally important.”

The words are chosen from the root teachings of the world’s religions, such as the Christian tenet of forgiveness or gentleness from Taoists.

The centrepiece of the exhibit is an eight-sided lantern, made of the same rice paper weave as the hanging panels.

“It is a very prosperous number,” Loewan said. “It has a lot of symbolic meaning.”

The grain and rice formed into patterns below the lantern and the panels is also symbolic – of wealth, nourishment – and a basic staple of human existence.

But the roots of the project go all the way back to the day Loewen was born and given the name Wai-Ping – Wai, in Chinese, meaning gift, and Ping, meaning peace.

“A lot of this work is using a lot of my cultural heritage,” she said.

She began exploring peace as a theme in her work about 10 years ago as part of the random acts of kindness movement. Taking it further, she wanted to have a lasting effect on the world.

“I thought, how do I use my gift as an artist?” she said.

What she soon discovered is that change begins in the most basic place of all – ourselves. Her exhibit became one of personal reflection for the viewer.

The show, which has travelled to other cities, includes a blank, wire wall hanging, in which people can write their own messages of peace after seeing the exhibit. Some of the messages collected from other cities are now part of one of the lantern’s panels.

Loewan will talk about her exhibit at the campus Nanaimo Art Gallery Friday (Jan. 13) at 4:30 p.m., followed by an opening reception at 5 p.m., coinciding with Deryk Houston’s exhibit in the lower gallery. Both installations will be on display from Jan. 13 to April 4. For more information, please call 250-740-6350.

arts@nanaimobulletin.com