• "Madame Quen", by Colleen Quen

Exhibition Introduces Colleen Quen’s Journey from Couture Fashion Designer to Watercolor Artist

On view at the Thoreau Center for Sustainability’s China Brotsky Art Gallery in the Presidio of San Francisco from June 12 to September 5, 2014, In the Spirit of Fashion: Chinese Watercolors by Colleen Quen celebrates the artist’s first exhibition of paintings. Featuring some 30 exquisite and whimsical watercolor on rice paper works, the exhibition explores a profound, unconscious realm of Colleen Quen’s imagination as she transcends three decades of fashion design to her newfound journey as a watercolor artist.

Quen’s fashion aesthetic informs her paintings—both are at once universal and deeply personal; playful yet heartfelt; organic yet vividly imaginative. Her paintings grow out of a gradual metamorphosis from haute couture, signifying a natural progression and constant meditation of her artistic and spiritual journey. She is a transformed artist in a new medium, a messenger who brings joy and beauty into people’s lives. 

Quen says about her works, “I paint with the simplicity of calligraphy strokes, in which each stroke has meaning. Pressure points create the shape from brush to the rice paper, creating volume, movement and expression. My brush becomes my spirit. When I paint, I become one with the universe. I use my creativity to give to others my love, joy and spirit. My tools are simple, my imagination goes free.”

The ancient disciplines of qigong and internal martial arts have helped Quen capture the wisdom of Taoism, which, in turn, has shaped her inimitable vision. As a disciple of Master Madeleine Fu, she incorporates landscape brushwork techniques and organic aspects of nature with vibrant, playful hues to reflect her gratitude and passion for life. Nature plays a constant and inextricable role in Quen’s art. Her paintings are an ode to the precious element of water, and her charismatic and inventive use of branches, leaves, flowers, butterflies and birds has become a staple of her work.

Meditative movement and lively color characterize Quen’s expressive brushwork. She uses ink-, mineral-, and vegetable-based color pigments on rice paper to forge striking elements of humanity, the universe, and the spirit of fashion. Imbued with whimsy, humor, and grace, each exquisite painting carries its own story, its own mantra intertwined with a message of love, joy and enlightened beauty. 

The exhibition is installed in three sections – Heaven, Nature, and Spirit – and features watercolors including Madame Quen, Enchantment, Empress New Shoes, Cherry Blossom Woman, and Peony Woman alongside a suite of her haute couture gowns showcasing her journey from fashion design to painting.

On the first Thursday of the month throughout the run of the exhibition—July 3, August 7, and September 4, from 3–5pm—Quen will be live painting in the gallery and will talk about her process and inspiration. Works produced at the live painting session will be for sale to visitors.

In the Spirit of Fashion: Chinese Watercolors by Colleen Quen is generously supported by Project5 SF. Special thanks go to AAWAA and the Thoreau Center for Sustainability.

Opening reception and press preview: Please join us for the press preview and opening reception on Thursday, June 12.

Press preview: 5–6pm

Reception: 6–8pm


About Project5 

Project5 is thrilled to represent Colleen Quen as she embarks on her new creative endeavor and show In the Spirit of Fashion. Project5 supports entrepreneurs with their ventures, providing the resources and guidance for early-stage ideas to launch. We simplify the complex to provide a one-stop for our clients who wish to execute their unique vision. Our dynamic team of industry experts experienced in marketing, brand strategy, product development, finance, and engineering provide the resources and support necessary to bring your idea to launch. Find us online at www.project5sf.com or contact us at info@project5sf.com.

About AAWAA 

Asian American Women Artists Association (AAWAA), founded in 1989, is a nonprofit arts organization (since 2007) dedicated to ensuring the visibility, historical documentation and well being of Asian American women in the arts. Through exhibitions, publications, and educational programs such as panel discussions, readings, and talks, AAWAA offers thought-provoking perspectives that challenge societal assumptions and promote dialogue. AAWAA’s artists and audience reflect the Bay Area’s Asian American residents, which comprise nearly 35% of the city’s population. AAWAA has been steadily evolving to address the healing needs of our artists and to serve as advocates for women within the broader community.

AAWAA is proud to support Colleen Quen for her first exhibition. Proceeds from the exhibition’s opening night raffle will benefit AAWAA, an organization Quen supports as a member to ensure the visibility of Asian American woman in the arts.

About Thoreau Center for Sustainability 

Located in the historic Letterman Hospital buildings of San Francisco’s Presidio National Park, Thoreau Center for Sustainability is a highly successful multi-tenant nonprofit center. This 12 building facility houses 80 organizations and 400 people working for social and environmental sustainability as well as two community oriented art galleries offering curatorial experiences for budding curators. Thoreau Center has incorporated green design and historic preservation in its buildings and is an operating model for other multi-tenant nonprofit centers. For more information, visit www.thoreau.org, www.tides.org.