My 2022 oil painting, Disperse, captures a hallucinatory moment of a nighttime landscape — between the silhouettes of two monumental and interlocking trees, a group of tiny figures scurrying by, running away from their familiar ground, their fates, their tormentors or captors. The specificities are intentionally omitted, so as to leave the viewers to interpret freely and to fill in the missing details, though the title does hint at diaspora stories in the headlines of late.
Disperse, oil on canvas, 20″x30″, 2022
This piece will be part of the juried exhibition “Within Sight or From Imagination” at GearBox Gallery, 770 West Grand Ave, Oakland, CA 94612 (August 10 – September 9, 2023). Juror: Jeremy Morgan. Opening Reception: August 12, Sat., 1 to 4 pm | Juror’s talk: September 2, Sat., 2 pm
An open, terraced, and desiccated field, dominated by a truss tower of industrial scale, dwarfed by the vault of leaden clouds, served as the backdrop of a small-scaled human drama, which centered on a lone figure looking toward the city silhouette in the distance, as if contemplating his or her future, in the region unknown. All these formed the subject of my landscape painting, Prospect, which suggested some inner turmoil without resorting to gestural embellishments – understated but impactful. I am pleased with the contrast between the vast landscape and the insignificant figure who got lost amid the cold and uninviting surroundings.
Seclusion is a meditative painting of a young woman and her two phantom images superimposed above the centrally placed figure at the lower half of the canvas. This young woman, head bent, surrounded by dense woods, was in a state of meditation, and solitary despite the two companions, who could be herself in different time frames, evoked by this woman lost in her private thoughts. These three figures, real or imaginative, resembled the traditional grouping of the Three Graces in the western visual presentation canon, therefore, created another layer of mystery to this tableau inside the dark and misty woods.
Seclusion Oil on Canvas 28” x 22” Completed in 2021
My allegorical painting Surveying portrayed a nightmarish landscape consisting of fluid and unsettled patterns, suggesting disturbed soil or waves, like the aftermath of a fierce battle. A large figure dressed in a similarly patterned white garb, floated above this mystic landscape, surveying the ravage brought upon by whatever malicious agents. The figure’s outstretched arms, along with the melting drips from the white dress, suggested immense sorrow and compassion.
Surveying Oil on Canvas 28” x 22” Completed in 2013
Drifting is a self-portrait that captures myself sitting on the bow of a small rowboat, which gently rocked in a bay, with a small vegetated island lurking in the back.
The tip of the bow, the outstretched or bent angular legs and arms, and above all, and the figure sitting on top of the boat, jointly or separately formed several intricately nested and well-balanced triangles. Yet, the usual stability associated with such triangular composition was negated somewhat by the tilting boat; one could feel the swaying of the small boat, and the longer one stares at this painting, the more likely one feels the onset of seasickness.
My younger self, eyes cast down, lost in thoughts, doubtful and a bit rueful, manifested the angst of youth, of an era, of a nation. The frostiness of this painting, awash with crisp light and dominated by a distancing pale blue shade, was punctuated only by the wine-red swimming trunk, which provided a small gesture of warmth in the otherwise thorough coolness.
Drifting 30” x 40” Oil on Canvas Completed in 2001
Missing making art in a community and the interaction with fellow artists, I decided to participate in a painting workshop, and one of the assignments was a small diptych, with one of them to have more and the other less paint. I did my best to capture the fear and resilience of people under threat from Coronavirus. This diptych is aptly titled “19”.
I hope that this small diptych, double portraits of a mask-wearing man and a woman, alert, vigilant, a tad fearful, yet resolute, titled 19, would give viewers a sense of fellowship, and fortify our resilience.
19 14”x11” & 14”x11” Oil on Canvas Completed in 2020
In recent decades, the economic inequality in the world, propelled by the ever-greedy corporations and individuals, and aided or even championed by purchased colluding governments of various dominance and ideologies, has widened drastically, and the divide between the haves and have-nots has become such an insurmountable gulf that the people behind are increasingly unable to sustain themselves, let alone catching up with those sitting on top of the socioeconomic pyramid. My The Desolates Souls of Main Street attempts to give a tiny protesting voice to the voiceless and faceless downtrodden, whose dire situation, in contrast to the mind-boggling glitzy world of the gilded, is as heart-wrecking as it is damning.
Desolate Souls of Main Street 22” x 28” Oil on Canvas Completed in 2019
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.
Procession Oil on Canvas 22″ x 28″ Completed in 2017
Despite some success of my 2015 painting Waft, which was recently published by Pomona Valley Review (Volume 11, Summer 2017), I clearly saw rooms for improvement, and recently I made a new version of the painting, titled Wafting — much darker and more dramatic, with additional whimsicality and humor, lent by the black flakes, resembling playful butterflies, darting above the little girl, who was, as in the 2015 version, running away from the viewer, holding strings tied to floating human balloons, all in the shape of young women dressed in pure white, against much darker and more ominous background, as if in the process of awakening or drowning. I believe that the latter effort was psychologically more penetrating and indeed a big improvement.