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.
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.
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.
My recent oil painting The March of Time was a chromatic piece, masking details with broad strokes, employing repetitive patterns to emphasis the underlying messages, and exploring the deep emotions with subtle tonal variation.
The painting depicted a wasted land – wreckage of houses in various degree of decay, scattered around a no-man’s land in spots where they once proudly stood but barely hanging on with ineffective supports of crutches and buttresses. This wasteland was the product of ruthless time, as manifested in the title; yet, it was hard not to think what humans, who once built and occupied those now abandoned structure, had contributed to this vast span of ruin.
This painting was selected to be part of the “Fresh Works VII” juried exhibition at Firehouse Arts Center’s Harrington Gallery in Pleasanton in May through June 2017, and was recognized with a Honorable Mention Award, by Juror Ryan Reynolds, Assistant Professor of Art at Santa Clara University.
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.
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.
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.
Interestingly, this painting just joined a group show, titled “In to the Future“. Perhaps, this ominous world is the vision of the future?
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.
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.
Though I am mostly comfortable in descriptive paintings, occasional visions have compelled me to explore abstract paintings, such as this Schism.
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).
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.