When I made figurative paintings, I was often drawn to unusual and striking settings, manifested in my 2020 oil painting Subterrane. This urban painting featured a young man in red and blue, standing in the foreground of a dark underpass, whose massiveness dwarfed and weighted down the slight person who peered at the viewers quizzically and uncertainly. Through the far end of the structure, bright light penetrated into the gloomy underpass and shone the ceiling, the floor, and the tilting walls in bold gestures. In complementary colors, some trees and block buildings they protected could be gleaned at the opening of the structure, counterbalancing and stabilizing the hesitant figure, whose hunched posture suggested something unsettling within.
An open, terraced, and desiccated field, dominated by a truss tower of industrial scale, dwarfed by the vault of leaden clouds, served as the backdrop of a small-scaled human drama, which centered on a lone figure looking toward the city silhouette in the distance, as if contemplating his or her future, in the region unknown. All these formed the subject of my landscape painting, Prospect, which suggested some inner turmoil without resorting to gestural embellishments – understated but impactful. I am pleased with the contrast between the vast landscape and the insignificant figure who got lost amid the cold and uninviting surroundings.
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
My allegorical painting Surveying portrayed a nightmarish landscape consisting of fluid and unsettled patterns, suggesting disturbed soil or waves, like the aftermath of a fierce battle. A large figure dressed in a similarly patterned white garb, floated above this mystic landscape, surveying the ravage brought upon by whatever malicious agents. The figure’s outstretched arms, along with the melting drips from the white dress, suggested immense sorrow and compassion.
Surveying Oil on Canvas 28” x 22” Completed in 2013
Waifs depicted an almost surreal landscape, tranquil and dark, as if under the spell of a mysterious and shushing moonlight. Amongst tall trunks, a group of figures shrouded in white, ostensibly young women, trod, plodded, or frolicked on the richly vegetated ground, ever deeper into the woods.
Despite their being in a group, there was an overwhelming sense of isolation and loneliness, and their internalized presence was touching to behold. Their billowing dresses were as mysterious as these figures themselves – were these innocent young girls or runaway women? Were they spirits, witches, or visiting phantoms from beyond the reach, and acted in tandem?
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.
In recent decades, the economic inequality in the world, propelled by the ever-greedy corporations and individuals, and aided or even championed by purchased colluding governments of various dominance and ideologies, has widened drastically, and the divide between the haves and have-nots has become such an insurmountable gulf that the people behind are increasingly unable to sustain themselves, let alone catching up with those sitting on top of the socioeconomic pyramid. My The Desolates Souls of Main Street attempts to give a tiny protesting voice to the voiceless and faceless downtrodden, whose dire situation, in contrast to the mind-boggling glitzy world of the gilded, is as heart-wrecking as it is damning.
Desolate Souls of Main Street 22” x 28” Oil on Canvas Completed in 2019
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