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.
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.
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 painting, “Siege”, currently on view at Berkeley’s Arts Passage, in an exhibition titled “Today’s Artists Interact with Major Art Movements from the Renaissance to the Present”, is an almost terrifying work, depicting a wounded seabird being swamped by relentless, aggressive crabs. The painting was inspired by literature, which has played important role in my art making process, as documented in this guest blog on Superstition Review: “Literature Inspired Paintings”.
While reading the novel Europe Central by William T. Vollman, I responded strongly to a passage (page 497): “Have you ever seen an injured bird at the seashore? Here come crabs from nowhere – they wait under the sand – and ring it round, cautiously at first, before you know it, the first crab has leapt onto the broken wing and pinched off a morsel. The bird struggles, but here come other crabs in a rush.”
That passage, to me, summarized the helplessness of the Europe during World War II, which, viewed through historical magnifier, constitutes the distilled essence of human suffering.
The image conjured up by Vollman was translated onto canvas by my paint brush has made fairly strong impression on viewers.
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.”
Crows are fascinating animals – omnipresent, prophetic and somewhat sinister. There were many crows hover around my neighborhood and quite often I was struck by the peculiar complex air they exude when they perched high on telephone poles, which dotted and dominated the bleak urban/suburban landscape of my environ.
I was moved by such vision to create a painting, titled simple Crow, depicting a lone crow in a forlorn urban space, aiming to capture such leaden atmosphere and desolate melancholy.
Now, this Crow has been shipped to San Diego, for a show titled “The Crow Show: An Homage to The Raven” in Studio Door Gallery.
Exhibition Dates: February 2 – 27, 2015 Mission Valley Reception: February 5, 2015 6:00 – 9:00 PM Ray Street Reception: February 6, 2015 6:00 – 9:00 PM.
Prior to that, it was exhibited in the gallery of a legendary recording studio in San Francisco, Studio Trilogy in 2011: