My recently painting New Century’s Shangri-La is rather visually intriguing — a colorful and orderly semi-abstract landscape/cityscape, serene and paradisal, being menaced by heavy dark storms swirling above, which threaten to crush down at any moment and bring havoc to the orderly world below. The ironic title unfortunately aptly described the state of our world, if not yet today, soon tomorrow.
My monochromatic painting Procession is a visually engaging and topically challenging work, which depicts a group of fantastic birds, treading despondently in a nondescript and barren landscape, carrying a dead companion in the middle of their solemn funeral procession. The overwhelming sadness was manifested in the starkly contrasted white and black color scheme, and the bend and stretched postures of those dejected birds, from gigantic to tiny. The loose brushstrokes and the lack of the last measure of definition, also contributed to the unreal and dreamy atmosphere.
My 2015 painting Waft features, against an empty and nondescript landscape, a very small girl in the lower right corner of the vertical canvas, running away from the viewers, while holding strings tied to floating human balloons, all in the shape of young women dressed in pure white, in postures of awakening or drowning. Was it a hopeful dream, or a potentially nightmare? It is up to the viewers to decide. Perhaps, what I captured was the the hope and trepidation of a very young person at that cusp of growing into herself, while facing a future unknown.
This painting was chosen as cover art and as a featured piece on page 19 by Pomona Valley Review (Volume 11), published by California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, in July 2017.
As if I had anticipated a gloomy election season to conclude this year, back in late January, I worked on and finished a painting titled Apprehend, featuring a lonely bird, enclosed in a disorienting and confused space, sketchily defined by indistinct horizontal and vertical stripes of various thickness and shades of blue, black and yellow.
The bird, in cautions pose, peers into the uncertain distance, seemingly full of expectation and comprehension, an apt metaphor of people in this traumatic post-election time.
Human history is sadly saturated with sorrow and suffering, a theme resonates strongly with me. In 2003, I made a diptych of oil paintings, titled “Sorrow and Suffering”, to record the pain people suffered and will suffer at the hands of ruthless and/or reckless political leaders, when George W. Bush was brandishing his excuse to invade Iraq.
Since that fateful invasion, the unstable Mideast became ever more explosive and the human suffering ever escalated. Yesterday a series of concerted attacks on civilians in the great city Paris shocked and saddened the civilized world and this diptych expresses my feeling aptly.
My still life oil painting, “White Dress”, was inspired by a vision of a tiny white dress floating in a vast open sky.
While working on the painting, I managed to make the delicate-looking dress full of free-spirit and bravura, as it floated against an intense red backdrop, whose hues shifted and varied mercurially, like raging flames. Small, and delicate, yet the small white dress flew on, nonchalantly, unconcerned with its own vulnerability, however threatened by the menacing environ.
The success of this painting gave me an impetus to continue the probe of the psyche of a personified white dress, and embarked on a journey of making a series of white dresses, objects I judged perfect to reflect or stand in as the bodies they are to clothe, as documented in this article: “White Dress” Series Continues – A New Drawing and a New Painting.
This painting was also part of my Apocalypse Series.
It was selected for juried exhibitions at 4th National Juried Exhibition, Prince Street Gallery, Chelsea, Manhattan, New York, 12 – 30 July 2011, and ViewPoint 2007, 39th Annual National Juried Art Competition, Cincinnati Art Club, Ohio, November 2007.
My oil painting, “Devils’ Dance”, created in 2004, was inspired by passages from the novel by the late Nobel Laureate Günter Grass, “The Tin Drum” (Die Blechtrommel).
As described in “Arabesque” and Other Paintings Inspired by Literature, Grass’s “The Tin Drum” moved me to create the painting mirroring his nightmarish depiction of book burning by the Nazis. The archaic scroll with the proclamation of “Faith, Hope, and Love” on the top portion of the painting, I hope, echoed the perverse scene in that passage from the novel.
The painting was created during the dark period when George W. Bush recklessly invaded Iraq, arguably for religious reasons. I found the book burning ritual aptly reflected the paranoid and xenophobic mood of GWB’s America.
This painting was published by Synchronized Chaos, an interdisciplinary art, poetry, literary, science, nature, cultural issues, and travel writing webzine in October 2009 and by Howard University’s review magazine The Amistad in Spring 2007.
It is currently being exhibited at Expressions Gallery in Berkeley (18 April – 17 July 2015: Hop, Skid & Jump.
I don’t consider myself as a colorist; yet, sometimes, I managed to utilize some vibrant colors to create paintings with vibrant colors, bold, striking, yet harmonious, such as my 2003 oil painting, Birds and Men.
With that painting, and several others made in 2003, I started my Apocalypse Series, intended to document human sufferings inflicted by reckless or repressive political, religious or cultural forces. The direct impetus to create such series was the impending invasion of Iraq, led by George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Tony Blair, Condoleezza Rice, and Colin Powell, et. al.
As stated in my standard bio: “Life is a harsh experience, yet it is beautiful. Art ought to be from life, and above life. To merely document surfaces is not enough: I want to grasp what is behind, which to me is far more compelling and worthwhile.
As with many artists, my early work is grounded in realism, and evolved into a style that retains a representative cast but rejects slavish naturalism. I immerse myself in the patterns and rhythms of forms, particularly the contradiction between the surface beauty and harsh subjects, and from these foci has formed a distinctive style. The subject matter of my work ranges from portraiture and landscape/cityscape, to allegories and abstraction.”
The medium or media we choose to convey our deepest feelings and expressions, etc., however competent, can never fully convey the whole complicated concepts our brain formed mysteriously, thus the endless striving to meet the challenge, to do a better job still in the next given opportunity, thus the hunger to develop and grow as an artist, be it visual, musical compositional or a writing kind.
It also occurs often enough that one form of artistic creation, spurs on the re-interpretation with another media of either the whole story or a fleeting moment, not necessarily to prove a better job can be done; rather, to add another dimension to the engaging concept while hoping to complement the original.
I have been stimulated, on multiple occasions, by novels I read, sometimes the whole atmosphere of the book, such as Blindness by José Saramago, or sometimes, just a specific passage which may not even be pivotal in the whole scheme, such as my newly completed oil painting, Arabesque, inspired by a passage from The Known World by Edward P. Jones: “… looked over at the open chiffarobe [sic], whose door was broken and so would never close properly, looked at the black dress hanging there. It seemed to have its own life, so much life that it could have come down and walked over and placed itself over her body. Fastened itself.”
I actually was quite stirred by the passage and the image just flooded into my mind. Incidentally, this painting also fell into a painting scheme of mine – I have been working on a series of “White Dresses”, which I saw as both liberated and restricted, at once individual and impersonal, simultaneously beautiful and sinister. Now it started the companion series “Black Dress”.