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Colours of life inspire Burnaby artist

Local artist YoungHwa Cha-Hach will be appearing at Spring Fling Sale art show.
YoungHwa Cha-Hach's art "Embrace" will be showcased at an art show hosted by Burnaby Artists Guild.

YoungHwa Cha-Hach has always found beauty in her surroundings — even in the seemingly mundane.

Always captivated by the colours in her environment — yellow rays of sunshine reflecting off the clear blue of water, the bright smiles of teenagers, the shades of green and the reds in the trees, the browns and greys of pants and bags — she sets out to capture the moments on canvas and breathes emotional life into them.

Ever since she was old enough to hold a pencil and a paintbrush as a kid in Korea, Cha-Hach has dreamed of being an artist. She remembers being fascinated by all the beautiful colours in her surroundings. That fascination has held.

“When I walk into a store, I don’t remember the store’s name, but I can describe the store with the colours,” she said.

Immigrating to Canada

With the dream of becoming an artist, Cha-Hach found a home in North America in the 1970s, landing in Calgary, Alta. She lived there for 15 years working as a draftsman at an oiling company, where she met her husband and became a mother.

The roles of wife and working mother put her dreams put on hold. Meanwhile, opportunities took her to Germany and Malaysia.

In Malaysia, she got domestic help that freed her of major responsibilities like cooking and cleaning, and without a full-time job, she said, she was able to rekindle her passion for art.

She brought out some canvases, dusted off her paintbrushes and began to paint again.

Colourful affair

Cha-Hach had always loved the nature of British Columbia and its temperate climate, in contrast with the harsh winters in Alberta, so the family settled in Burnaby upon their return to Canada. She has lived in the city for over 15 years, painting in her small studio an participating in numerous exhibitions internationally and around the lower mainland.

Colour forms the basis of all her works in poster-colour medium, a little-known gouache-like medium she first studied in Korea, along with oil and acrylic. She breathes life into different themes — impressionist art, semi-abstract art, landscapes — and mediums — oil, acrylic, poster, water.

Cha-Hach’s inspiration from colours in real life is reflected through the subjects in her paintings. For example, works that were painted in Malaysia, the warmer and more densely populated country, had more lively subjects of cheery families in vibrant clothes, and her paintings made in Canada tended to more landscapes and darker hues.

“No. 1 sellers here are landscape,” she said. “We live in a country where the nature is overwhelming, it’s beautiful. Big mountains, lakes … it is just this beautiful country. And [people] appreciate that subconsciously.”

A vibrant picture above her fireplace shows six boys all dressed in summer colours, smiling. She vividly remembered that moment: “It was a beautiful, sunny day, they were all walking together and … all the colours … just caught my eyes. So I took a picture as they shyly stood and posed.”

This, freezing a moment in time and conveying the life in it, is why Cha-Hach loves painting.

Like many artists, Cha-Hach forms a strong, almost familial, bond with her works. “I put in a lot of effort, my mood, and everything into it. [My paintings] are like my children… right away I’m attached, and sometimes it's sad to part,” she said.

“But of course, I love it when other people appreciate that art; I’m happy and I'm satisfied," she added. “I think at the end of the day, it’s more rewarding when buyers appreciate.”

April Spring Fling Sale

Over the decades of her artistic career, Cha-Hach has appeared in many exhibitions across Metro Vancouver and internationally, notably solo shows at Plaskett Gallery in New Westminster; the Firehall Centre for the Arts in Surrey; the Gallery in White Rock; and the Korean Cultural day show in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Her work has also been showcased in over 60 group shows including at China's Guiyang Art Museum.

From Friday, April 14 to Sunday, April 16, the Burnaby-based painter will be making an appearance as the featured artist in the April Spring Fling hosted by Burnaby Artists Guild, where she plans to showcase her works along with those by other local artists. Admission is free, and the artist is encouraging people across the region to visit the exhibition.

Even if you can’t buy the painting, just dropping by to show appreciation for the local artists’ work could make their day, she said.

It could also inspire kids to pick up their paint brushes and paint.

“All artists have to start from somewhere."

Burnaby Artists Guild Art Show — Spring Fling Sale

In addition to featured works by local artists, on-the-spot portraits will be available, and attendees can enter a raffle for an original framed painting.

When: Friday, April 14 to Sunday, April 16

           Official opening: Friday, April 14; 7 to 10 p.m.

           Saturday, April 15; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

           Sunday, April 16; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: Shadbolt Centre for the Arts (6450 Deer Lake Avenue)

Cost: Free admission and parking, bus access