Domain was another painting completed during the height of the COVID pandemic, when my daily sphere shrank to my humble dwelling. Besieged by the sameness of familiar settings, I found some distractions from my bright kitchen, from the geometric patterns composed by a few household objects, to the contrast between the hard edges of those objects and the morphic shapes of their shadows, cast by the ever-changing, captivating lights. I recorded this solace with this painting, a study of familiarity, sameness, and subtle variations.
Seclusion is a meditative painting of a young woman and her two phantom images superimposed above the centrally placed figure at the lower half of the canvas. This young woman, head bent, surrounded by dense woods, was in a state of meditation, and solitary despite the two companions, who could be herself in different time frames, evoked by this woman lost in her private thoughts. These three figures, real or imaginative, resembled the traditional grouping of the Three Graces in the western visual presentation canon, therefore, created another layer of mystery to this tableau inside the dark and misty woods.
Seclusion Oil on Canvas 28” x 22” Completed in 2021
College Town was a snapshot of the unpretentious college city I live in, during the summertime when droves of young temporary dwellers cleared out their flats and moved on to their next destination, or back to where they came from, and left their transitory possessions at the curbs for repurposing. This still image captured the melancholic and slightly forlorn atmosphere after the adrenaline rush from graduation celebrations, when the excitement had ended and only abandoned chairs and mattresses scattered about in this way station, which dutifully quietly welcomed and sent off the young people to make their great or tiny marks to the world, year after year.
College Town Oil on Canvas 30” x 24” Completed in 2021
Though lately I am mostly attracted to shifting patterns, colors, tones, and shapes, from time to time, I am still inspired by pure scenery, particularly when I can discern such variations, and especially if the landscape evokes strong emotions such as moody melancholy. Such an image I had encountered in Manchurian China, barely a few months before the pandemic started to ravage the globe, intrigued and challenged me to create an oil painting when sheltered at home, Crisp, an understated work aptly captured a sense of community, isolation, and resilience.
My recent Itinerant is a deliberately ambiguous piece, which depicts three almost identical figures spacing out in an empty boulevard. In the background, there are vague outlines of standing or seated figures, and a couple of vehicles, shaded beneath a huge awning or a theater marquee, or in the cast shadow of an imposing steel-glass structure, whose richly patterned façade was somewhat menacing. The strong contrast between the dark and obscure background and the brightly-lit and clearly defined street generates a strong dissonance. The almost identical postures and shapes of these three figures are enigmatic and hard to fathom. They are like roaming ghosts and can either be the same person appearing in three locations in sequence, or a group of persons march in unison. To ground the tableau, a partial figure bent over to reach the ground appears at the lower right of the canvas, adding an extra visual focus.
Itinerant 22” x 28” Oil on Canvas Completed in 2020
Depicting human beings is both challenging and exciting, because of the complexity of the human emotions, and the viewers’ familiarity with expressions and postures associated with these emotions, which suffers no falsehood.
My recent Boyhood attempted to capture the instance when a confident and cocky urchin, insistently pressed himself upon the viewers, announcing his presence. Though a little naughty, he still possessed his innocence, and his wonderment at the broader world surrounding him was palpably touching, and hopefully would viewers of their tender ages.
The background was sparse, and open, allowing much space for the boy to occupy, except for a pair of moving legs towards the center space and seemingly poised to displace the boy. Perhaps, it was the man he was to become. The confluence of presence and future was both touching and a bit unnerving.
Starting this horizontal group portrait in a somewhat more upbeat time, employing a colorful palette, I aimed to create a group of people engaged in dialogues and interactions. However, during the painting process, those figures took more and more an air of despondency, and the vibrant colors started to become untruthful and had to fade. A couple of months later, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the piece was finally completed, it had morphed into a monochromatic nightmarish hallucination, featuring some sketchily painted heads, shrouded in white gauze, turning into different directions, strikingly silhouetted against pitch dark background, and emoting resignation, sadness, and anger. Though compressed in space, they seemed hardly related to one another, and remained in utter isolation; a party without conversation. To their left, a jumble of cantilevered structures protruded from the distance, adding an atmosphere of foreboding and disintegration. This painting ended with a sad wailing note, aptly echoing the signs reverberating in our daunting time.
Silent Party 18”x36” Oil on Canvas Completed in 2020
At first glance, Emergence is a calm sliver of routine life due to the simplicity of its composition and color scheme; upon closer inspection, what emerged from this picture was not so simple, rather it revealed something indecipherable and with a hint of sinisterness: against a sparse backdrop, a few curious looking, semi-translucent figures floated like ghosts from behind thin vertical bars, which made the whole landscape reminisce of a jail cell, despite the openness of those bars. What was emerging? Inner strength? Outside menace? Guilty conscience? Or stoical indifference to anyone’s fate?
Emergence 22” x 28” Oil on Canvas Completed in 2019
Eerie stillness was a sense I tried to convey when I made the oil painting, Quarry, which was bleached of colors, as if they would have been intrusive in such a disused quarry, which seemed demanding viewers to hold breaths, and surrender to an overwhelming hush and foreboding, closed in by the knife-sharp white cliffs, and the deep pool of inky dead water captured in the middle. Nature, ravaged.
Dream Forest continued my exploration of monochromatic paintings consisting of interlocking patterns and shades, some simple, some more intricate. This small gouache painting depicted an imaginary forest at night time, when moon light shimmered over truncated trunks and branches, contrasting starkly with dark surrounding. Also, the image somehow resembled a microscopic view of organism, a tiny sliver of macrocosm.
Dream Forest 7” x 11” Gouache on Paper Completed in 2018