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Long Gao explores our connection to natural energy

From the Rain by Long Gao

From the Rain, the first solo show from Chinese-Canadian artist Long Gao, seeks to capture the energy and spirit of the rain experienced on the West Coast.

Choosing rain as an element was very personal to Long. Growing up in Vancouver, he says he has a special connection to the rain of this place.

“When I left to Toronto for 10 years, during those 10 years is when I really started feeling like I was missing home. And part of missing home was how I was connected to that element,” he says.

This show is the first of a three-part exhibition, each of which deals with natural experiences humans have with nature. The first is the human connection to rain, while the second and third explore the relationship with the sun and with flowers respectively.

Long says he chose these three things because of the fundamental and universal feelings they evoke from humans, regardless of geographical place, identity or culture.

“These things that connect us, they’re very simple things for me. You know? We’re organic beings that are tied to sunshine. We feel certain things when there’s moisture in the air. We feel a certain way when we see fire. And we feel beauty when we see flowers.”

And while he recognizes that over time, we have changed and evolved different meanings of natural elements and phenomena through culture, religion or shared social experience, those base feelings still remain.

Energy by Long Gao

From the Rain

From the Rain, as the name implies, takes up the first of these elements: the rain. Part of the uniqueness of the exhibition is that the artwork is being shown alongside an immersive installation, one that was created and painted at the venue, on its roof.

“Every painting in the series is finished by exposing the actual surface of it to the rain,” Long says. “And in that way, there’s a perfect moment for the droplets of the rain that literally fall in that time and place and moment onto that canvas that is captured perfectly. So, on the surface of every single piece is a different pattern, a different way you’re able to see that reflection. And in a way, a reflection of the quality of rain during that time.”

Each piece of artwork begins as a painted canvas that is then left out in the rain. As rain hits the surface, its uniqueness plays with the paint, moving it in new and unexpected ways.

This process continues a number of times—being in the rain, taken out, painted on and put back out in the rain—until it reaches a moment where the impression of that particular rain becomes captured on the canvas.

Each piece then becomes positioned within a specific place and time, telling the story of the rain from that moment, forever captured. This, in turn, reflects the energy of nature at that moment.

“It’s the idea that energy is present in nature, is present in phenomena, like sunlight, rain, like when the weather changes,” Long says. “And this energy, we harness, and it affects our mood and affects our behaviour and affects how we see things and think about things in subtle ways that have very important impacts on us in the future.”