Oil Painting “Liberation Road”

My most accomplished painting to date is a portrait of an old woman, Grandma (2003), while its companion painting, Liberation Road (2010), is my most personal one.

Liberation Road / 解放路 / Befreiungstraße, Oil on Canvas, 18" x 24", Completed in 2010

17 Paintings Completed in 2010 (part 2 of 2)

This painting was based on a photo of my paternal great great grandmother, or maybe great grandmother, I do not really know for sure.  She was a very elegant woman with a knowing look and her photo had often haunted me and caused me to wonder what had happened to her, to her family, to her descendants in the ensuring years – all those endless upheavals, wars, famine – human suffering of all kinds, from the end of the imperial time, the republican era and culminated in the so-called revolution in the mid-twentieth century. Furthermore, this painting also touched on the traumatic experiences my parents and my sibling and myself suffered in the iron grip of the Chinese Communist Party, or any totalitarian regime, even to this very day.

The left side of the painting showed ruined houses and railroads, balancing the right side of the portrait of my dignified grandmother.  The horizontal road sign bisecting the painting read “Liberation Road”, yet at the end of the arrow, we saw a sorrow-stricken person, helplessly rested his/her head on the knees, anything but liberated.  There was a similar figure, at the lower right of the painting, echoing this figure, in the same posture, though in profile.

I made this painting to pay tribute to my elegant ancestors who had striven to achieve personal enlightenment and successes and later suffered precisely for their achievements in the hands of the anti-intellectual and self-righteous puritanical Communist Party.  By surrounding my great grandmother with ruins and other suffering people, I tried to demonstrate the scope of the destruction in the wake of the Communist Party.

I also made a short video (1:56) to present this rather haunting painting.

In order to show both the complete picture and its details as the “camera” panning across the canvas, I incorporated two video clips into one single final video and they can be played simultaneously.  I deliberately kept my left clip static, so as to show the complete painting, while the right clip demonstrate the details, exactly as the video above.

 

Portrait Painting “Grandma”

If I have to summarize my career as an artist, I would say that the biggest achievement I’ve attained was the creation of my portrait painting “Grandma”.

Grandma / 祖母 / Oma, Oil on Canvas, 40" x 30", Completed in 2003

Grandma / 祖母 / Oma
Oil on Canvas
40″ x 30″
Completed in 2003

11 Paintings Completed in 2003  (part 2 of 2)

This painting, created during the time when George W. Bush was drumming up to invade Iraq, despite the series opposition from the people within and without the US.

At the time, I was reading Günter Grass’s fantastic novel The Tin Drum (Die Blechtrommel), and was struck by a passage depicting the a protagonist’s old peasant grandma, whose presence in the novel, though not frequent, but impressive, due to the wonderful depiction of the author of her at various phases of her long life – many layers of her skirts, her peeling potatoes, the heated bricks
she used to stay warm, again, underneath her layers of skirts.

I have painted several portraits of old women.  To me, they often can be categorized as sibyl, a word comes (via Latin) from the Greek word σίβυλλα sibylla, meaning prophetess. Old women are the personifications of mysterious wisdom and deep compassion, and the grandma in The Tin Drum was the personification of just that.

To generate a working-class and wise woman, I gave her a pair of large knotting hands and wrinkled face, and emphasized her stiff posture, against the equally thinly painted menacing sky, and somewhat comforting trees, whose monumentality again gave the grandma an air of a Greek goddess, all seeing, compassionate, and formidable.

This painting is part of my ongoing Apocalypse Series and can be purchased via a trusted third party vendor, ArtSlant, which also chose it as a Showcase Winner.