Ray of Light (2023)

Pine trees

My daughter throwing stones into a gopher hole

“Taikoo Li”, the shopping mall in my hometown Chengdu

Modern tall office building behind

The Broadway Bridge in Saskatoon

My youngest daughter sitting on a chair in the kitchen

A little playground in Tsukuba, Japan

The place I used to live

A city view of Tokyo

A pond near our house in the winter

JingLu Zhao is an artist, a mother, and a newcomer to Canada, having studied and worked in China and Japan before moving to Saskatoon. She paints her life, and her paintings explore identity, place, responsibility, and cultural differences through representational imagery mixed with the abstract and imagination.

The Godfrey Dean Art Gallery was thrilled to work with JingLu and create this exhibition for our gallery, and to contribute to the artist’s growing career and continued success reaching audiences across the province and beyond.

Artist Statement

I was born in China in 1981, a year after the “one-child policy” became enforced. After I got my MFA in Japan, I went back to Chengdu, China to teach art for a few years, until I decided to move to Canada in 2013.

Since that time, I have focused my energy on raising my children. As my youngest child got older, I began to have more time for myself to paint again. I have been drawing my children, while they play, explore, and learn. My son and two daughters have experienced a very different childhood than I did. They have space and time to play, learn, and grow. My aim was to capture their energy and curiosity. I was blending reality with imagination, by creating paintings that combine figuration and landscape, as well as images from my children’s Chinese and First Nations heritage. That was happiness.

In September 2021, a month after my ten-year wedding anniversary, my family situation changed and I became a single mother to my three young children. While I was attempting to make their daily life the same as it was before, I started to take my art more seriously and work tirelessly on my craft. Before my separation, I started painting a Frame of Mind series, as I felt like there was something bad happening. I started to incorporate picture frames and paper airplanes into my paintings. I wanted to show a broader landscape where I could be taken somewhere by that airplane through that frame. That was loneliness.

Life as a single mother is difficult, especially as an immigrant. Every morning as I woke up, I would contemplate how I could do the best for my children. How will I pay my bills? How and what will I prepare for meals today? How can I ensure that my children can get to all their activities? I began to feel overwhelmed. This was trauma.

Art is the best therapy that slowly helps me heal every day. Even in the darkest painting I have made, I still see some hope in it. I need it to encourage myself to keep going. Now with a some first exhibitions accomplished, I would like to continue to share my story and my artwork with all of you.

I want to thank the Godfrey Dean Art Gallery, Director Jeff Morton, and the whole team for the opportunity to exhibit my artwork here. Thank you to the Canada Council for the Arts, SK Arts, and Saskatchewan Foundation for The Arts for their support. Thank you to CARFAC Saskatchewan for their mentorship program, and to my mentor Edie Marshall for her help. Thank you all very much!

JingLu Zhao, 2023