The Art of Haiku is a collaborative exhibit with local, regional, and international poets, inspired by a selection of photos by the award-winning photographer Hua Jin.

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For contemporary visual artist Hua Jinworking on the collaborative outdoor exhibition called The Art of Haiku at Peace Park Arboretum in Dorval was a process full of unexpected delights and discoveries.

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“This public work connected me to a very old tradition of image, calligraphy and poetry,” said Jin.

The exhibition, created in collaboration with Haiku Canada, Montreal’s Black Tea Haiku Group, and the Friends of The Dorval Library, is presented on a series of large outdoor panels with 12 of Jin’s photos inspired by nature. Haiku poets from Canada and Japan were asked to write a poem for each of the selected images in the show. All the poems appear in both English and French and included in the exhibition are the hand-written calligraphy versions by the three invited Japanese poets.

“When they wrote the haiku, I found another space was created,” said Jin. “I’m so excited because they found a possibility to read my work in a poet’s way. They added another dimension… another layer… another meaning.”

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Born in China, Jin was a graphic designer for 10 years, and when both her parents passed away it was “life changing”.

“Death made me rethink life and the meaning of my life and what I truly wanted to do,” she remembered. “I was confused… so I started to travel. I traveled almost half of China by myself with a camera. That was the beginning.”

Filled with questions, she continued to travel, observing everything through the lens of her camera, most often seeking answers to her questions in the rhythms and changes she saw in nature, and the “circles of life and death” that she perceived there.

“Gradually I found a visual language,” said Jin. “It is my way of thinking through looking.”

Her new-found devotion to her artistic and personal inquiry led her to Vancouver where she received her BFA from Emily Carr University of Art + Design, and 10 years ago she moved to Montreal to complete her MFA at Concordia.

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She has exhibited extensively across Canada and internationally in group and solo shows, and her works are featured in many private and public collections, including those of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Global Affairs Canada, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Shanghai.

“When Dorval approached me about doing a project with photos and poetry, I said… ‘It’s perfect… It’s fantastic.’”

The Art of Haiku is Dorval’s third outdoor exhibit as part of an ongoing commitment to presenting more public art in the city.

“By bringing exhibits outdoors, our aim is to reach a new audience and to integrate culture (and) art into the daily milieu and experiences of our citizens,” explained Andréanne Alain, Dorval’s division chief for library and culture. “Our hope is that passers-by will pause and take some time out of their day to admire the stunning photos, discover the beauty of haiku and perhaps be inspired to try to write their own poetry.”

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The exhibit will be in place at Peace Park Arboretum (1401 Lakeshore Dr.), beside the Dorval Library and Cultural Centre, until late August and will then be moved to the new outdoor exhibition space at the Surrey Aquatic and Community Centre, where it will remain until Jan. 20, 2023.

Seeing her work outdoors led Jin to deepen her understanding about her artistic inquiry.

“When you put your art outdoors you have all the nature elements…It feels alive.” she said. “The time changes from sunrise to sunset, the seasons change, you have the green in summer, yellow in the autumn. All of this becomes the background to your work. It’s just rich.”

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