My 2007 oil painting One Fine Day soon will conclude its five-month long exhibition at at McGuire Real Estate Gallery in Elmwood District, Berkeley. This painting, in somewhat sickly moon light tone (pale Prussian blue), depicted a school of agitated and thrashing fish, tightly packed in confining space, bulging eyes telegraphing anguish, straining to escape of a deadly trap they had unfortunately fallen into.
The ironic title I chose, perhaps ought to be ascribed to some lucky fishermen. And that spoke the volume of the relationship of mankind and the unfortunate nature.
One Fine Day
Oil on Canvas
22″ x 28″
Completed in 2007
Nurtured by many Russian novels while growing up, I developed a special feeling towards the omnipresent birches, which not only aptly set the scenes and evoke the particular melancholy especially associated with Russia and Russian people, and finally, I made effort in 2006 to try to capture such feelings with a painting titled Birches, which is currently showing at the McGuire Real Estate gallery in Berkeley as part of the “Crowded by Beauty” exhibit.
I love the slender shapes of the trees, the softness of the finely-layered birch barks and their eerie silver color, and above all, the eye-shaped knobs imprinted on the trunks from bottom to top, as if birches were meant to be the chosen observers from silent world, so as to judge humankind.
Birches Oil on Canvas 22″ x 28″ Completed in 2006
That painting is also a play of optical illusion – amongst the eyes on the trunks, there was a singular eye floating in the space, unattached, between two indifferent birches. Inundated by so many eyes, this oddity was not immediately obvious; once detected, one might ask, if this is a most determined birch eye, the eye of an invisible human, or just a wandering independent eye belong to nothing and no one.
My 2005 oil painting Forest Within, currently showing at the McGuire Real Estate gallery in Berkeley as part of the “Crowded by Beauty” exhibit, is a play of optical illusion – the painting is a seemingly outdoor scene, yet the landscape is framed within a boxy confinement, and beams of light cast from behind and the shadows fall on the real or imaginary wall further enhances the blur of the boundary, where interior met exterior, reality met illusion.
Forest Within Oil on Canvas 24″ x 30″ Completed in 2005
My 2003 oil painting Net, currently exhibiting at the McGuire Real Estate gallery in Berkeley as part of the “Crowded by Beauty” exhibit, is a study of alienation and anxiety of our time. The vertical canvas is split unevenly into three narrow stripes – a bright and somewhat richly patterned center “panel”, flanked by two darker and simpler outer “panels”; with the slanting perspectives of the outer panels, the whole image resembles an opened-up triptych. Furthermore, the center panel was covered by repeating yet subtly varied outlines of small windows and some interlocking ladders, which tilt in various degrees; the joyless left panel is a simple building façade, immobile, and featureless, except for some blank windows; the right panel features one large window, and behind the casually divided glass panes, there is a broadly sketched sad-looking man, looking out, tentatively raises his hands, as if attempting to make gestures of hesitant acknowledgement.
The strong contrast of the three panels, with the vivid and colorful middle, and somber and austere at the sides, plus the alien-looking ghostly person locked inside his flat, captures a sense of dislocation and disjointedness quite well.
Net Oil on Canvas 30″ x 24″ Completed in 2003
Not a surprise for a painting created at a sad moment of history – it was done in the year when George W. Bush poised to invade Iraq in spite of the fierce and sound oppositions from virtually every corner of the globe. My painting managed to capture the Zeitgeist then; unfortunately, the overall mood still fits today’s gloomy atmosphere.
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.
Minotaur / 牛頭怪 / Minotaur Oil on Canvas 24″ x 30″ Completed in 2005
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 first successful pastel painting, Typhoon, is an abstract piece inspired by devastating typhoons unfortunately have been creating ever-heavier havoc recently, due to the undeniable climate change. Exploring spatial relationships, subtle variations of tones and shifting of patterns, I tried to capture the something unpredictable and the menacing. Typhoon / 颱風 / Taifun Pastel on Paper 8.5” x 11” Completed in 2015
This painting is currently being exhibited at Expressions Gallery in Berkeley, in a show aptly titled “Into the Future”.
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.
Shadow / 影子 / Schatten Oil on Canvas 30″ x 40″ Completed in 2008
Interestingly, this painting just joined a group show, titled “In to the Future”. Perhaps, this ominous world is the vision of the future?
Though I am mostly comfortable in descriptive paintings, occasional visions have compelled me to explore abstract paintings, such as this Schism.
Schism Oil on Canvas Board 16″ x 12″ Completed in 2007
The straightforwardly titled painting is dominated by a large object, glowing red and yellow, sitting on top of an equally glowing red slit – the schism, all of them contrasting strongly against the black background. Smack in the middle of the small canvas, the large object can be seen as an escaping ladder, or a doomed arrow headlong crashing into the schism; or, can even be interpreted as the vary agent who caused the schism, with some tragic results for the environment and perhaps even itself, similar to the reckless behavior of the US on the international stage in the last decade, in particular.
This painting, in stark contrasting bi-tones, together with Flow and Party Night, would be exhibited at Expressions Gallery, Berkeley, in an exhibition titled “Does Color Matter?” (October 24, – January 8, 2016 Opening: October 24, 6-8pm).
The medium or media we choose to convey our deepest feelings and expressions, etc., however competent, can never fully convey the whole complicated concepts our brain formed mysteriously, thus the endless striving to meet the challenge, to do a better job still in the next given opportunity, thus the hunger to develop and grow as an artist, be it visual, musical compositional or a writing kind.
It also occurs often enough that one form of artistic creation, spurs on the re-interpretation with another media of either the whole story or a fleeting moment, not necessarily to prove a better job can be done; rather, to add another dimension to the engaging concept while hoping to complement the original.
I have been stimulated, on multiple occasions, by novels I read, sometimes the whole atmosphere of the book, such as Blindness by José Saramago, or sometimes, just a specific passage which may not even be pivotal in the whole scheme, such as my newly completed oil painting, Arabesque, inspired by a passage from The Known World by Edward P. Jones: “… looked over at the open chiffarobe [sic], whose door was broken and so would never close properly, looked at the black dress hanging there. It seemed to have its own life, so much life that it could have come down and walked over and placed itself over her body. Fastened itself.”
Arabesque oil on canvas, 28″x22″, 2013
I actually was quite stirred by the passage and the image just flooded into my mind. Incidentally, this painting also fell into a painting scheme of mine – I have been working on a series of “White Dresses”, which I saw as both liberated and restricted, at once individual and impersonal, simultaneously beautiful and sinister. Now it started the companion series “Black Dress”.