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.
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.
Painting human faces and figures, not as means to document, rather, as means to probe and investigate, is hugely challenging and exciting, and thankfully, such is also a the validity of portraiture painting in selfie age.
One of my successful attempts was a portrait of a young man, whom I saw near Musée d’Orsay in Paris, and I was intrigued by his serious and even severe countenance, and his chiseled features, intelligent, graceful, vulnerable yet vigorous, an enthralling concoction led to my 2001 painting, A Young Frenchman, which managed to capture many of these engaging characteristics.
Someone once wondered about the “Frenchman” in the title; I was fairly confident that the young man was a french national, because not only I saw him in France, also to me, he was the epitome of Gaullic attributes and attraction.
The inspiration of my 2017 oil painting, Autumns Impression was a photo I chance encountered – a room of eerie green light, resembling electric currents, against a background of a irregular pattern of wavering pink tiles. Besides the striking color palette, I was also intrigued by the shifting spatial relationship between the light and the background, thus moved to commit my appreciation to canvas.
Naturally, I would not ape the photograph; rather, the photo served as a springboard for me to “record” my vision.The painting soon departed from the electric glow, and morphed into an impressionistic abstract landscape, and reached a state that I could stop and consider the project complete, though the painting was not truly satisfying.
With layers of additional paints applied to the canvas, it moved further away from the inspiration and my initial attempt. Now, the colors of painting somewhat recalled what I saw in Yosemite National Park I visited last fall, therefore, a new resolution presented itself and I happily complied.
I managed to find the good balance of recalling the spirit of a slightly unhinged forest or meadow, softened by some darting patches of rather joyous colors, without being slavishly realistic. It’s a recollection of memories and emotions. The spatial relationship of many elements and colors of the painting, though not the same as the photograph, was also similarly intriguing.
My 2014 gouache painting, Wildflowers was inspired by a visit to a riverbank park in my home city, Shenyang. It was spring time and the abundant wildeflowers lent colors and joy to the large expanse of dark green meadow, just in front of some dignified woods. It was a joy to encounter this cheerful sight, yet with certain gravitas, in the usually gray and somber city. It was even more joyful to be able to capture such wonderful memory of my home city in a magical moment.
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.
Inspired by the lush fall colors in the valleys, and rushing cascades in the mountains of Yosemite, which I recently visited, I made a gouache painting, titled Cascade, trying to capture the spirits and impression of the marvel, instead of literal shapes and shades.
A simple and heart-warming souvenir.
The first painting I completed in 2017, Origin, was an abstract gouache painting, with yellow dusts scattered on a very dark background — red and blue streaks intermingled with swirling thin layer of black paint. A striking contrast and beautiful presentation, perhaps depicting the beginning, or end of the time.
The inception of this piece was a strange one. It was inspired by my aged, multiple-layered, and simultaneously muddied and rich-hued palette. A small vision triggered a larger one.
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.
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.