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Five Elements: Bill Pangburn’s Rivers at Artego Gallery

MGC member Bill Pangburn's show "Five Elements: Bill Pangburn's Rivers" will be on view at Artego Gallery this March. Curated by Sooung Hyun, an opening reception will be held Friday, March 1 from 6 to 8 PM.


Five Elements: Bill Pangburn’s Rivers

March 1–30, 2024

Opening Reception March 1, 6–8 PM




From the Curator, Sooung Hyun


Bill Pangburn is a highly accomplished artist who has dedicated most of his career to the singular theme of rivers and water imagery for over two decades. His artistic journey encompasses a range of mediums, including meticulous woodblock prints, authentic Eastern ink paintings, and expressive oil and acrylic paintings on paper and canvas. Pangburn's unwavering passion has cultivated a unique and distinguished artistic style crossing over conventional boundaries. His perception explores the natural world as his vision engages in a dynamic interplay, contributing to its unique resonance. His creative expressions extend beyond traditional representation, delving into the realm of insightful contemplation.


Pangburn's art masterfully captures the essence of water in all its diverse forms and nuances. The water in his work presents rivers passing our everyday surroundings, coursing through arid deserts that converge with other waterways, and connecting vast oceans. The artist draws inspiration from a range of geographical locations driven by his experiences combined with liberal creativities. From the enchanting shores of Crete in Greece to the vistas of China and impressions of Korea, to the untamed spirit of Texas in his hometown, and Hudson River in New York as his neighbor, the transformative power of flowing rivers symbolizes the energy of nature. The exquisite features underscore a metaphor for the intricate interconnectedness and complexity of human existence. In this context, Pangburn posits rivers that encapsulate the multivalent facets of life.


The heart of Bill Pangburn's work implies the essence of Eastern cosmology, which can be comprehended through the principles of the Five Elements. The concept of the Five Elements is rooted in "Wu Xing," a Chinese philosophy that identifies wood, fire, earth, metal, and water as symbolic elements that transcend the physical realm. These elements embody the cyclical flow of cosmic energy and the intricate interactions shared between humanity and nature. In Pangburn's art, the Five Elements become a philosophical codex, offering profound insights into the interplay of cosmic energies and human existence.


Through his work, Pangburn visualized the concept of the Five Elements, focusing on water as a potent embodiment of both substance and symbol. Rivers flow across the landscape as tangible water elements, affecting and interacting with other elemental forces. Parallel to this flowing water, Pangburn's choice of materials for his artistic compositions, whether in the texture of paper or the canvas's surface, serves as a symbolic embodiment of the earth. The canvas becomes a foundation upon which his rivers find their form and direction. The true dynamism of his creations comes to life within these empty spaces wherein water and earth intersect. It is a profound exploration of the delicate balance between opposing forces, where the fluidity of water blurs the lines that separate land and water. This interplay represents not only the coexistence of elements but also the interconnectedness of all aspects of existence.


Here Pangburn elevates this amalgamation of elements to unprecedented heights in his woodblock prints. These prints are unparalleled in their ability to combine various elements into an exceptional work of art. The water depicted in his prints is meticulously incised into the wooden blocks. Pangburn carves his visionary design onto flat wooden blocks with absolute precision. Every stroke of the carving knife is a deliberate gesture, much like a brushstroke, evoking the copious characteristics of water in the artist's mind. In Eastern symbolism, metal represents strength and power, yet it is also known to yield to the force of fire. This principle within the Five Elements finds profound meaning in Pangburn’s work. The carving knife is made of metal as a tool for engraving images on wooden blocks. The artist pours his heart and soul into the carving, infusing it with the energy of creation. The relentless passion signifies a symbol of fire, akin to the fire that can melt metal. The artist's creation process transcends the medium's boundaries, interweaving with the Five Elements. The central principle of these elements is the profound interconnection whereupon they find their balance.


Bill Pangburn’s art ultimately communicates a profound message concerning the interrelatedness of existence and the ever-evolving nature of life itself. Through his art, he functions as a conduit, presenting a metaphor for the fluidity, dynamism, and cyclical character of existence symbolized by the perpetual flow of water. His artistic compositions encourage beholders to contemplate the interrelationships between elemental forces, cosmic energies, and the human condition. These explorations enlighten us in regard to the profound interplay of the universal forces and the enduring connections between all manifestations of life. Pangburn’s rivers become metaphysical conduits through which we traverse time and culture, connecting us to epochs past, as well as the contemporary era, and the promise of the future.

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