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.
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.
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.
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.
14”x11” & 14”x11”
Oil on Canvas
Completed in 2020
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.
My last oil painting completed in 2016, Remembrance, featured a ghostly profile of a pale and pensive person, occupying lower third of the canvas, head bending down, in deep thoughts, with a barely registered presence. Against this sketchily and thinly painted bust, the strongly accented abstract and dark background, asserted itself strongly, and became obvious the representation of the things to remember, a commentary to his thoughts. Perhaps, the winding road or river in the far background reminded him of the toil in the past; perhaps, the repeating pattern of vertical shapes, reminded his of the hopes raised in the past and perhaps not wholly accomplished, or even lost. An apt conclusion to a quite regrettable year of the turbulent 2016.
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.
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 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?.