Arid Urban Life – “Crossing”

Crossing is a somber urban snapshot, featuring a not yet crowded thoroughfare, dominated by a row of pillars planting on a grassy tram lane in the middle of the street, between two vanishing tram tracks. From these mighty pillars, which extended from top to the bottom of the canvas, protruded a complex web of beams and wires crisscrossing the entire upper half of the canvas, as if wanting to imprison the indistinct highrises and the surrounding early morning gray sky in the backdrop.

In the foreground, a slouching pedestrian, isolated from everything and everyone, setting about to traverse one of the tracks. His detached form and uncertain posture enhanced the somnambulist atmosphere of this picture of parched and flinty urban life.

Crossing, oil on canvas, 20"x24", 2020 Crossing
oil on canvas
20″ x 24″

Unsettling “Subterrane”

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.

Subterrane, oil on canvas, 20"x24", 2020
oil on canvas

Domain ⁠— Familiarity, Sameness, and Subtle Variations

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.

Domain, oil on canvas, 28"x22", 2021
Oil on Canvas
28” x 22”
Completed in 2021

A Glimpse of Relief ⁠—”Narrow Confinement”

In the last couple of years, like many people, I was largely home-bound, and some reliable distractions and relief came through the courtesy of some windows facing the outside world, where some birds and squirrels rambled undisturbed by the upheavals in the human sphere. 

When those carefree creatures failed to meet their appointments, I would ramble to a hallway window with a view to the house next door, whose bold and rich coat of deep blue, orange, and marron would jolt me into sharp alert. It was endlessly fascinating to notice how the colors shifted with the weather and to observe how those rich hues seeped into the hallway and tinted the plain off-white walls and ceiling colorful and alluring. Gradually, these shades moved and shimmered, like quivering butterfly wings, tantalizing and comforting yet somewhat overwhelming and alarming. 

This sight formed the foundation of my metaphorical painting, Narrow Confinement, which recorded the narrow sliver of the comfort allowed me during the trying time and was much appreciated.

Narrow Confinement, oil on canvas, 28"x22", 2021
Narrow Confinement
28” x 22”, Oil on Canvas
Completed in 2021

Uncertain “Prospect”

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.

Prospect, oil on canvas, 22"x28", 2021

Touching Landscape Painting – “Still Water”

Several years ago, while traveling to Seattle, I encountered an unusual man-made lake, whose smooth surface was dotted with numerous bleached tree stumps, scattering across large swatches of the water surface. These turned out not to be tree stumps, rather relics or ruins of former workers’ dormitory sheds, which were abandoned and flooded with the change of the industries. The moving and melancholic image of the disappeared past haunted me ever since, and later the stumps-dotted lake and the ghost town underneath became the subject of my landscape oil painting Still Water, aiming to capture the poignancy of the sight.

Still Water - 靜水 - Stilles Wasser
Still Water
Oil on Canvas
30” x 40”
Completed in 2020

Enigmatic “Seclusion”

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 - 隔離 - Abgeschiedenheit

Oil on Canvas
28” x 22”
Completed in 2021

Oil Painting “College Town”

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 - 大學城 - Universitätsstadt
College Town
Oil on Canvas
30” x 24”
Completed in 2021

Compassionate “Surveying”

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
Oil on Canvas
28” x 22”
Completed in 2013

Crisp and Somber “Drifting”

Drifting is a self-portrait that captures myself sitting on the bow of a small rowboat, which gently rocked in a bay, with a small vegetated island lurking in the back.

The tip of the bow, the outstretched or bent angular legs and arms, and above all, and the figure sitting on top of the boat, jointly or separately formed several intricately nested and well-balanced triangles. Yet, the usual stability associated with such triangular composition was negated somewhat by the tilting boat; one could feel the swaying of the small boat, and the longer one stares at this painting, the more likely one feels the onset of seasickness.

My younger self, eyes cast down, lost in thoughts, doubtful and a bit rueful, manifested the angst of youth, of an era, of a nation. The frostiness of this painting, awash with crisp light and dominated by a distancing pale blue shade, was punctuated only by the wine-red swimming trunk, which provided a small gesture of warmth in the otherwise thorough coolness.

Drifting / 漂流 / Treiben
30” x 40”
Oil on Canvas
Completed in 2001