My little idyllic painting, Brook, depicted a thin stream snaking through a quiet grove, seen through imposing placed black trunks in the foreground, and enclosed by delicate silhouettes in the background, behind shimmering bright light like a liquid curtain. The sedate creek, painted impasto, with paints dragged downward rough bottom edges, as if a living creature planting its roots or sinking its teeth into the meadow; meanwhile, its varying somber colors, and the impossible spatial relationship between the tree trunks and the seemingly floating creek forks, simultaneously ups and downs, and in front of and behind those tree trunks, created a sense of disorientation, uneasiness, and otherworldliness.
A giant verdant tree, erect on its strong and knobbly roots, full of colorful chairs hanging from its riotously wide-spreading branches, is quite a heartwarming congregation. Warm and deep colors intertwined with shades cool and pale, helps to create modulating and shifting moods.
Despite joyous colors of those chairs, their positions are somewhat precarious, manifested in a lone chair underneath the seemingly carefree gathering, clinging to the roots of the tree — knocked down, a fallen one, or a cast out one? It would be up to viewers to interpret.
Apropos viewer’s perception, I was also somewhat surprised to hear from a friend on how disturbing the painting was. Those swinging chairs, somewhat called more disturbing images to his mind — hanging bodies swinging in high branches, echoing those from war times documented by Goya, or from not so distant periods of concentrated lynching, whose records were fading fast from our collective memory. This linkage to the darkness was so serendipitous, that even I needed such illumination. Apparently, my intention, combining with viewers’ interpretation, could have generated much more interesting dialogue, thus create another form of congregation.
This painting currently is being exhibited at Berkeley Central Arts Passage, as part of the Unity show (June 16th – October 13th, 2018)
One of my attempts to capture fleeting impressions of well-known Greek mythologies resulted in an abstract painting Paris and Three Goddesses, whose pink and golden color blocks in the background signified the dangerous intermingle of the mortal and immortal worlds. Three powerful goddesses, Hera, Athena and Aphrodite, were represented by three richly colored powerful beams, which penetrated the human world below, while circling like sharks of their prey a small globe — the golden apple, to be awarded to the most beautiful one, planted by the spurned goddess of discord.
Poor Paris, represented by the golden color associated with another golden male beauty Apollo, was pinned down by those powerful beams above, and responded with blue sparks, echoing the beam of Aphrodite alone, risking the wrath of Hera and Athena, for the sake of the most beautiful woman on earth, the Queen of Spartan Helen, the promised bribery from goddess of love, and eventually launched thousand ships and unleashed the ten-year Greco-Trojan war, and caused unspeakable misery for many, many more.
Little ones are perennial pitiful playthings of the powerful ones.
Paris and Three Goddesses
Oil on Canvas
14″ x 11″
Completed in 2012
This painting is currently in a Group exhibition Color Speaks (Sep. 23, 2017 – Jan. 20, 2018), in Downtown Berkeley’s vibrant art district.
My painting Colony depicted a roughly sketched tight grid, in which several skeletal ants nervously roam around these low barriers. The whole painting was awash in a cold and almost sinister bluish green, and the insects were barely discernible at the first glance, as they seemed to have merged with the thin grids underneath their wiry bodies. The painting was a bit starling as it presented the ants in close-up, and they looked rather monstrous in their enormities.
This painting is currently in a Group exhibition Color Speaks (Sep. 23, 2017 – Jan. 20, 2018), in the vibrant art district of Downtown Berkeley.
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.
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.
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.
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?.