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Fire Brings Script to Life at the de Saisset

At the de Saisset Museum this spring, images of plants such as tree branches and sea life such as kelp and anemones will take on an almost calligraphic form.

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Mirang Wonne in her studio.

An exhibition of works by Bay Area artist Mirang Wonne called “Fire Script,” which will be open from April 10 to June 15, will showcase the artist’s subtle blend of representation and abstract design.

Wonne’s work can appear from a distance like delicate swaths of silk adorned with a sort of calligraphy. However, a closer look reveals an unusual technique. Wonne begins with a stainless steel mesh screen as her surface.

Rather than using paints or pencils, she uses a blowtorch to make marks on the screen. “When the stainless steel heats up, chemical reactions happen,” says Lindsey Kouvaris, curator of exhibits and collections at the de Saisset Museum. “It leaves a darker mark and a rainbow patina behind.”

The show is called “Fire Script” because the marks, made with fire, resemble calligraphy. “They have a kinship to the sumi ink traditions of her ancestors,” Kouvaris said.

The exhibition will have a combination of screens hanging from the ceiling and wall-mounted pieces.

“Building Forward/Looking Back,” which runs from Feb. 13 to March 16 and April 10 to June 15, highlights the contributions of Paula Z. Kirkeby to the de Saisset Museum. For more than 30 years, she has shared her time, her resources, and her connections with the museum, helping build the museum’s permanent collection through personal gifts, financial contributions, and her network of collectors and artists. This exhibition highlights some of the gifts that have come to the de Saisset Museum through Kirkeby.