Jing Jy Chen often has work on display at the Artists' Gallery, but this member artist's current exhibit, “The Year of the Monkey,” seems particularly appropriate for the spring.

Working within an Asian art tradition with watercolor and ink paintings, Chen generally features nature studies in which floral close-ups, stylized landscapes and wildlife are delicately realized.

The venerable association of cherry blossoms with this time of year comes across especially well in “Spring Pink.” That's because the lovely little pink blossoms are on a thick black tree trunk whose gnarled appearance makes it seem as if this tree is hardly a newcomer when it comes to blooming.

People aren't the only ones who appreciate spending time around such trees. In “Beautiful Spring,” there are five small birds perched in the tree's branches. Unlike “Spring Pink,” however, the tree in this painting has a trunk colored such a pale brown that it visually seems to defer to the flowers in terms of calling for the viewer's attention.

Although it's the cherry blossoms that call out to us at this time of year, the exhibit also has an abundant display of other flowers.

Sharing in that pinkness is “Dogwood,” whose pink flowers are distinguished by their yellow centers.

Exploring sprays of purple and white are “Wisteria” and “Magnolia,” while an imposing “Peony” goes in for red and pink tones so assertive that the stalks seemingly hold up quite a bit of floral weight. And “Hydrangea” ventures into a palette of blue and purple.

All of this floral abundance sometimes attracts insects and other animal life. In “Orchid Love,” there are two tiny butterflies that seem like they will have an overwhelming feast awaiting them as they hover over two relatively huge flowers that are colored a festive pink, red and yellow.

And the exhibit title is explained with several works in which monkeys are the star attraction. In “Seven Monkeys,” they're swinging through tree branches as if they were young students going wild at recess. A somewhat quieter scene is to be seen in “Happy Ride,” in which one monkey rides another as if they similarly have a playground sensibility.

Much more austere is “Camels,” in which three solidly built, darkly colored camels march across empty pictorial space that might as well be a sandy desert.

Standing out in this show because of the way in which they completely dispense with plant or animal life are two works, “Green Water” and “Water Ripple,” in which Chen has subtle gradations of color playing across watery surfaces.


Jing Jy Chen's exhibit runs through April 29 at the Artists' Gallery, in the American City Building at 10227 Wincopin Circle in Columbia. Call 410-740-8249 or go to artistsgallerycolumbia.com.