Goward House celebrates late artist

Work of John Nip, a Chinese brush painter and calligrapher, on display until March 29

Pauline Nip

Pauline Nip

A Cadboro Bay institution is currently hosting the work of a late artist whose sensibilities have resonated far beyond the community.

Goward House  is currently hosting a posthumous exhibition showcasing the work of John Nip, a Chinese brush painter and calligrapher, who during his long career as a teacher worked with two groups of Chinese brush painting students, one that met at Monterey Recreation Centre in Oak Bay, the other at Goward House.

The exhibition – which features pieces by Nip as well as his students – opened Sunday with a reception and will run on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. until March 29.

Nip, who would have been celebrating his 80th birthday on March 25, died on Oct. 1, 2016.

“Unfortunately, he fell in his home, was in a coma for two weeks, and didn’t make it,” said Barb Mekelburg, a member of the group that paints out the Goward House under the name of Studio of Harmonious Endeavors.

Nip was in the middle of preparing a show of his work at Goward when he died. Undeterred, Nip’s widow Pauline wanted the show to go on.

“So those of us who studied with him at Goward and at Monterey, we said ‘all right, we will make the show happen,’” she said.

Mekelburg remembers Nip as an “extremely honest” teacher who combined his candour with a firm commitment to show students how they could improve their work, while sharing his own extensive knowledge.

Gained over the course of decades, Nip’s skill and technique earned him an audience in Victoria and his native Hong Kong.

When the Royal Museum of British Columbia hosted an exhibition about the effects of Chinese settlers on British Columbia during various periods in the19th century, he provided the accompanying calligraphy. He also copied a Chinese-language scroll of the Bible dating back several centuries and donated it to the Catholic church he and his brother attended while growing up in Hong Kong.

“For them, it is an absolute treasure to have the Bible story told in Chinese characters on a traditional scroll, written with such beauty and skill,” said Mekelburg.

Nip, who came to Canada with his wife in 1987, also served as a cultural bridge. “You cannot take the art away from the culture, because the kind of pairings that you do in the paintings, the meanings, the symbolism of the animal that you chose,” said Mekelburg. “He would impart that. He would tell you what it stood for.”