Right now, as we speak, Janice Wu is getting ready for her first art fair. This talented young artist will be exhibiting in the Seattle Art Fair with a select group from Monica Reyes’ Vancouver-based Back Gallery Project. Come Sunday, Wu will be driving down to Seattle with her husband and baby girl to the Paul-Allen created Art Fair, now in its second year.
“Some of my postcard drawings will be at the Fair and a few new drawings. I’m very excited. It will be my first art fair. I will definitely be visiting the Back Gallery Project booth – A26! – for a hello, but I plan to walk around and experience the fair, to see all the work from the other galleries participating.”
Wu has been garnering international interest, even though she just graduated from Emily Carr University in 2013. Along with her galleried artwork, Wu has been commissioned to illustrate for a long list of clients that include The New York Times, New York Magazine, Fortune, Walrus, Conde Naste Traveler and Canada Post.
How did Wu get her work in front of the influential Reyes?
“About a year and a half ago, I sent Monica a submission and she showed interest in my art. She came by for a studio visit and we talked about showing the body of work which I later titled Wishes at her gallery. I was thrilled to have my first solo exhibition in Vancouver of the drawings I had been working on for about 2 years.”
Says Reyes: “What I noticed first was the impeccable technique that Janice has already mastered. But, beyond that, it was the subject matter and her sensibility to bring to the front line objects that everyday get overlooked and discarded, usually as waste. She makes us revaluate what we keep and disregard.”
Reyes was also impressed with Wu’s serious commitment to her work.
Wu’s Wishes series was inspired by a postcard collection she started years ago. “I see them as objects that are so rich in narrative. Each postcard contains its own world. There are so many ways in which we send messages now and so much of how we communicate is instant, fleeting, immaterial – digital words that float and flicker on screens.”
“Some of the found postcards are over 100 years old with the most beautiful handwritten calligraphy. To hold a physical trace of an interaction from so far away feels foreign and intimate at the same time. Wishes is a typology of these interactions and, as a series, it reveals how we distill, document, and share our experiences.”
Wu is also proud of Infinite Happiness, the drawing she did for her BFA grad exhibition at Emily Carr. It is a work that touches on themes she hopes to revisit in future series. “It is one of my more ambitious pieces and its harmonious composition is inspired by traditional Chinese landscape paintings.”
Detail from Infinite Happiness, 2013
“Being part of a generation that grew up with immigrant parents, there is a duality in my cultural identity that is interesting to analyze and attempt to articulate. Infinite Happiness expresses a certain cheerful optimism that I identify as Chinese, while depicting materials that are ephemeral and disposable.”
Wu has been long committed to the life of an artist. “I have wanted to be an artist ever since I was a child and it never occurred to me to pursue a different path. I am determined to do what I love and I know that this is a huge privilege. “
Still Life I, 2016
“Drawing is a way for me to process the world and my experiences. My practice involves an observation in to the seemingly insignificant fragments of our daily existence and creating new meaning from these studies. I would describe my process as similar to the ways in which a botanical illustrator meticulously records their subject in detail as a way to understand it.”
As an artist, Wu finds great joy in sharing her work with others. And what does she find most challenging? “Finding the time to make all the work I want to. I’m a mother and I also work as an illustrator, so at times it can be difficult to find the space I need to create.”
What advice would Wu offer to new graduates or those embarking on new working lives as artists?
“One thing I have learned is that the best way to ward off my own doubts and insecurities as an artist is to keep making work and staying productive.”
Best of luck to Wu and her fellow Booth A26 artists in Seattle! We look forward to following her work for years to come.
Written by Elizabeth Newton
* Artwork by Janice Wu. Header Piece: Postcard (Birthday), 2014
For more information on Wu and her art pieces, see: