Featured Painting “Minotaur”

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.

Minotaur / 牛頭怪 / Minotaur
Minotaur / 牛頭怪 / Minotaur
Oil on Canvas
24″ x 30″
Completed in 2005

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.

Dichotomic “In Distant Country”

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.

In Distant Country / 在遙遠的国度 / In fernem Land
In Distant Country / 在遙遠的国度 / In fernem Land
Oil on Canvas
22″ x 28″
Completed in 2011

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.

Oil Painting “The Song of Orpheus”

I have always been drawn to the complex, intensely humane and deeply flawed characters in Greek mythology, and have made several paintings of based on several such figures, e.g. Minotaur, Daphne and Apollo, Helen of Troy, and Oedipus, etc.

One of my such efforts was an oil painting on the theme of Orpheus, one of the most famous musicians in human history, conceived while I was reading Rainer Maria Rilke’s Die Sonette an Orpheus.

That subject was a dangerous ground to tread into, because there were so many wonderful artworks had been created after this Orpheus myth, from paintings to operas; yet the lure of this myth and the reinterpretation by Rilke was so strong and irresistible, I pressed on.

My Orpheus was a collage of many variations of the much-told myth.  My painting started with his descend into Hades to seek his beloved Eurydice, traveling on the River Styx.  His lyre, which had persuaded Hades and Persephone to let Eurydice return to the earth, dominated the canvas.  The lyre also took a shape of a strange animal, and was also a linkage to Apollo.  After he had lost Eurydice for the second time, the grief driven Orpheus refused to entertain Dionysus’ followers who in their rages ripped him to pieces.  His skull became an oracle and his flesh and bones were tossed into sky, scattered about and filled the universe with his music.

Thus the marriage of Apollonian and Dionysian spirits ushered in a new era.

The Song of Orpheus / 奧菲厄斯的歌 / Das Lied des Orpheus, Oil on Canvas, 30" x 24", Completed in 2010
The Song of Orpheus
oil on canvas, 30″x24″, 2010

17 Paintings Completed in 2010 (part 2 of 2)

I saw Orpheus as the means to bring joy and meaning to the world, through his irrepressible quest for love and his suffering, and ultimately his death. I saw his lyre singing and I saw his bones being scattered into the highest sphere, just like his notes would have crowned the heaven. Holy ointment burned in his skull, which had transformed into an oracle, rising up to dance with his ever higher notes. That’s The Song of Orpheus.