My first oil painting completed in 2017, The Wash, continued to explore and express spatial relationship and (ir)regular patterns. This landscape was inspired by some haunting though dimming images crossed path with me a long while ago, of some laundered white sheets, blown wildly by strong wind, struggling to remain on the laundry lines. The rhythmic movements of those flapping sheets generated an atmosphere of both orderly and unruly, and such sense of drama was heightened by the stark contrasts between the blindingly bright sheets and the dark soil and sky, which foretold a menacing storm, poising to ruin the pristine cleanness of those vulnerable sheets.
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.
I often found the Minotaur legend disturbing and strangely moving. Minotaur, the bull-headed monster, resided in the labyrinth built on the command of King Minos of Crete, subsisted on tributes of young boys and girls, and was finally slain by the Athenian hero Theseus, who invaded his lair as one of the new sacrifices.
The strangest aspect of the legend was that Minotaur had a head of a bull, which was not a natural carnivore, therefore it would not be far-fetched to imagine how sickened he was by his own savagery, thus I treated this subject in my oil painting, Minotaur.
My Minotaur was not a personification of usual monstrosity; rather, a sensitive being, trapped by his monstrous nature beyond his own control, he eagerly awaited his slayer/liberator, so as to rid himself of the misery.
There, a hoof under his chin, my Minotaur pensively watched from a precipice the approaches of the Athenian boat, while holding the ball of threads, to be given to Theseus later by the willing princess Ariadne as means to aid his existing from the foul maze after the deed.
A large tear oozed out of his eye but it was not a bitter tear, rather a willing resignation and submission.
My landscape/allegorical oil painting, Shadow, depicts a fantastic world – a vast furrowed dark brown field, whose parallel ridges converge towards the distant horizon, which was dotted with a cluster of very insignificant white buildings, centering on a little church spire, which was barely visible. The contrast between the enormous dark fields and the tiny white village is highly dramatic, yet that is topped by several huge leaden and apparently weighty clouds, which curiously cast no shadows; instead, adds mysterious and menacing atmosphere, gliding over the entire field, s a huge shadow of an invisible bird, very much the personification of foreboding.
Interestingly, this painting just joined a group show, titled “In to the Future“. Perhaps, this ominous world is the vision of the future?
One of my paintings selected in a recent exhibition at Berkeley Central Arts Passage, Today’s Artists Interact with Major Art Movements from the Renaissance to the Present, is a painting of part cityscape and part animal figure study.
The left side of the painting, in shades of washed-out gray, depicts the Old St. John’s Hospital, an 11th-century hospital in Bruges, Belgium while the right side zooms in one of the omnipresent swans and the symbol of that ancient city, painted in intensely saturated rich hues. I conceived this painting while visiting Bruges, when I was quite intrigued and even moved by the stark contrast of immobile and somewhat faded history and threadbare nobility, and the living creatures full of grace, energy and slight menace.
Furthermore, I named this title to ensure that the German title In fernem Land is the first line of the most celebrated aria by the title character in Wagner’s opera Lohengrin, a mysterious knight arrived in a boat drawn by a swan, narrating his mythical original and his frustrated hope by lacking of faith he demanded from a woman he loved and rescued, whose child-ruler brother was turned into that swan and his disappearance had triggered a chain of events.
The medieval building and the medieval story interwoven, the purity and menace of this lofty bird, along with the historical baggage of Wagner, conspire to add extra meanings to this rather deceptively simply painting.
My 2009 oil painting Progression, conceived and executed after our nation and the world had suffered the dark era of George W. Bush, and entered an epoch ought have ushered in some changes in the U.S. following the ascendency of President Obama. Alas. It was not to be. Many people’s feverish hope proved constructed from thin air, and the changes were ever elusive, and the human rights abuses we collectively permitted largely remain in place. The long list of human sufferings continue.
My painting attempted to catalog such sufferings in a collage of iconography images, from Jesus carrying the cross to Calvary, Michelangelo’s slave sculpture, David’s Liberty Leads People, and the hooded abused prisoner in Abu Ghraib. The focal point of the painting is the sad face of an earnest man, personification of the sorrows and compassion of humankind.
Here is a video presentation of this painting:
This painting has been choose to be part of a group exhibition, Today’s Artists Interact with Major Art Movements from the Renaissance to the Present, at Arts Passages in Berkeley (22 August – 11 November 2015), curated by Expressions Gallery in Berkeley.
My 2010 oil painting, “Leisurely“, featured a calm body of water in dreamy aqua tint, over which swayed some soft bands, reminiscent of weeds or kelp, intersecting with shorter objects – an array of rowing boats.
At the first glance, all looked orderly – Alles in Ordnung. Yet, upon closer inspection, viewers will discover that the seemingly tidy boats in formation, actually were upside-down and they were sinking to the bottom, however serenely, especially the rower inside the completely capsized ship on the top of the painting.
So much for the idyllic scene – an allegory of our uncertain and oblivious time.
This painting was published by Wilde Magazine in Issue 2, 2013.
It has been choose to be part of the curated exhibited at Expressions Gallery in Berkeley (25 July – 16 October 2015: Water, Water! Water?.
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.”
Just when the ill-conceived and ill-fated Iraq-invasion led by US president George W. Bush keeps and the prime minister of UK, Tony Blair, finally started to fade from our collective consciousness, it sprang back with vengeance in the tides of horrible stories and images.
Now, confronted with the terrifying aftermath of their reckless joint-decision, George W. Bush keeps mum, while Tony Blair tries desperately to white-wash his hands, yet however often he screamed “Out, damned spot! out, I say!”, his hands, together with those of GWB’s and Dick Cheney’s, would forever be stained with blood, gushed from the mangled bodies of US soldiers and Iraqi people.
During his horrible and incompetent presidency, George W. Bush (GWB) was often criticized as an imbecile ninny occupying a high office due to his fabulous family connection – his father Georg Bush was the president of the US from 1989 to 1993. To me, that argument was incorrect and way too benevolent. GWB did many horrible things not due to his stupidity, but his fundamental believe in those horrible things.
To me, this painting of mine below, The Triumph of Saint George, created during the time he was drumming up the invasion of Iraq in 2003, reflects what he was; the painting also jump-started my ongoing Apocalypse Series, to commemorate the miseries of humankind.
I had hoped that what I depicted in that painting would be simply a warning sign, rather than, unfortunately, a most awful prophecy as it turned out.
History will remember George W. Bush and Tony Blair, not kindly. As an artist, it was my duty to record and reflect the time I live in.