Elizabeth Wang (1942 - 2016) was born in 1942 and spent a lot of her life engaging with the Catholic Faith. She produced many writings on Catholicism. Her work has been exhibited at the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours and the Royal Academy. Solo exhibitions of her work have also been held at the Notre Dame de France church - London, Westminster Cathedral and the Bar Convent Museum - York. Elizabeth’s colourful art primarily embodies spiritual and religious themes.
As a young child, Elizabeth enjoyed painting and producing colourful marks. In an interview, Elizabeth stated that as a child her subjects were focused on things she could see or images such as those from history books that she had remembered. As Elizabeth grew older her style flourished and grew progressively more refined, colourful and impressionistic. As a young adult, Elizabeth’s inspiration derived from her ongoing journey of transition to the Catholic Church. Elizabeth attempted to paint a few Madonnas to begin with. Above is one such painting - Madonna - The Virgin Mary, from the year 1993. Elizabeth uses soft oils to create a beautiful, calming image.
Elizabeth was inspired by the usage of colour of Impressionist and Expressionist artists. The German Expressionists' use of swirling lines and vibrant colours inspired Elizabeth to experiment. Colour had always grasped Elizabeth’s attention and brought a lot of excitement and joy. Elizabeth has stated that seeing colour well used gave her ‘the exact sort of pleasure and experience as to when she hears a great choral work with interweaving harmonies’.
Her interpretation of Mary and Joseph travelling to Bethlehem is strikingly bold. Flat brushstrokes of red, pink, orange and yellow watercolour paint fill the sky. A sense of deep warmth radiates from the background. This immediately contrasts with the icy blue coloured figures riding their donkey through a cold landscape.
Elizabeth, who said ‘For me, painting is about communicating what I see, know or feel about an idea, person or object’ focused on exploring colour contrasts and harmony and their relationship with the image. She soon realised the relationship between certain colours and understood why some combinations made her feel excited and others distaste.
Faith and Art Combined
The importance of Faith and Catholicism is paramount in Elizabeth’s work. Her art speaks about God, heaven, hell, and Christ and his church. Faith shines brightly through the colours that Elizabeth uses, making her style of work absolutely unique.
Her work helps one picture and imagine God’s presence. The beauty of Elizabeth's work is that it ultimately spotlights to a viewer many appealing elements of religion, such as belonging, love, family and community. Many of Elizabeth’s works are also focused on images which she has received during prayer. She describes the repeated presence of fire in her images, stating that the ‘fire is shown in its purity, its unchanging nature and its power either to burn or purify those who enter it unprepared’.
Elizabeth had a natural flair for painting and always strived to produce multiple original images. Elizabeth’s impressive illustrations portray important lessons of care, love and unity amongst the living. Her images are able to emotionally connect viewers as they provide thought provoking messages.
Light is also a main theme within Elizabeth's work and occupies prominent areas of the composition and focus in almost every image. For example, the bright white of Christ in the artwork below reinforces the holiness and spiritual power that Christ represents. Similarly, Christ is cloaked in a kind of multi-coloured spotlight in several of Wang's other images where his pose is key.
Elizabeth’s work is recognised commercially. Her images have been used for a variety of book covers and greetings cards. Her art radiates religious belief in addition to a calm, collected internal reflection which ensures her work is popular with clients.
“Christ wants to remind us all through these paintings that he is alive, Heaven is real, and the Saints are waiting to greet us at the heart of God's three-fold glory.” - Elizabeth Wang