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Passing On The Way

Passing On The Way

Soslo Exhibition 12.09 - 27.09. 2020

Passing On The Way

Passing On The Way

Solo Exhibition 12.09 - 27.09. 2020

Yan Donko

Austria & Chinese  artist.


Yan Donko is an Austrian painter with an ethnic Chinese background who lives temporarily in Norway where she arrived in the summer 2017. Born in Shanghai in 1965 she experienced the cultures of many different countries and sees the world from an individual East Asian perspective in her paintings.

“Norway’s Picturesque Landscapes and Myths in Chinese Paintings - Depicted by an Austro-Chinese Artist”

I would like to thank you for your interest in my work; please allow me to say a few words about myself and my style of painting.


My hometown is Shanghai in China where I was born in in 1965. From there I moved to Japan in the mid-1980s where I met an Austrian student. We got married in 1990 and due to my husband's job as a diplomat I have lived in many great countries around the world over the past three decades. As an artist, I tried to experience these very different countries in paintings. In my basic approach I wanted to combine the Chinese painting technique which I had studied with the local motifs in all these places; in other words, I want to express and depict a classic local motif in a foreign country like Norway with my Chinese technique.

The pictures may look strange at first glance, but at the same time strangely familiar due to the regional Norwegian motifs despite the clearly Chinese overall illustration.

Chinese and East Asian painting techniques look back to a very long history and differs substantially from European painting: the mood and the atmosphere in classical Chinese paintings are certainly much more pronounced than in European; the photographic or the lifelike depiction of the motif is quite unimportant, the motifs are often only indicated in a vague and sketchy manner. The pictures seem more timeless, light; shadows hardly play a role, rather the sharp contours of individual elements count, often in contrast to the softness of the overall picture and often deliberately overemphasized in the proportions. The strength and sustainability of the brushstroke is important. Colors are often used more sparsely than in European painting and hardly with any shading. They should not distract the viewer too much; colors are mostly used to highlight objects. The very image itself - that is a very crucial point - should then only be put together and “completed” in the viewer's imagination, not by the artist.

An important element is also the use of characters, notes, catchwords or entire poems in a picture. The characters should harmonize with the motif. Calligraphy is a very distinct art of its own in East Asia, which is closely related to painting. In other words it complements the painting.

The material used includes highly absorbent tissue paper and ink. This combination no longer allows for large corrections as soon as the brush is moved, i.e. the image must first be created very precisely in the artist's mind before it is then quickly executed.

The pictures are either framed in glass, i.e. in a European style or mounted on picture rolls in a Chinese manner. As there is no infrastructure for manufacturing picture rolls in Norway or Austria, I have to send all paintings to China for this final but important process.


There are so many marvelous paintings by Norwegian artists of local motifs from Norway; I really admire many of them. But they all have in common that they were seen with European eyes and captured using European painting techniques. I just want to say that you can of course also see the same picture differently: a duck on a European river painted by a European artist looks completely different in the Chinese painting technique, although it is the same duck, not a Chinese species of duck; the same applies for a tree, a building or a street scene. That means, I don't want to change anything with my painting, I don't want to turn Norwegian landscapes or trees in Chinese landscapes and trees etc., I just want to show that a Chinese artist can depict such motifs very differently than a European one without changing them. I would like to show the viewer in Norway a different perspective of their own landscape and nature, which might be to be first of all thought-provoking and also a lasting encouragement for reflection when looking at them. “Truth is the daughter of time”, says a quote attributed to Francis Bacon. I would like to complement this pearl of wisdom by saying that perspective is the daughter of a cultural region.


Last but not least I would like to express my gratitude to all the people who made this exhibition possible and for the opportunity to show my paintings here at this wonderful gallery.


I hope that you will like my paintings or at least that they will provide some food for thought for you when looking at them.



Yan Donko

Oslo, 22 August 2020

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