Featured Painting “Boyhood”

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.

Boyhood - 少年時代 - Kindheit
Boyhood
28”x22”
Oil on Canvas
Completed in 2020

Featured Painting – Silent Party

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.

Still Party - 沉寂派對 - Ruhige Partei
Silent Party
18”x36”
Oil on Canvas
Completed in 2020

Featured Painting – Away

Away is a fantastical portrait of a young man, whose striking features outlined in broad and loose strokes, staring at viewers unflinchingly. Lifting the portrait beyond realism realm were two white patches hovering just below the sitter’s eyes, as if two small wings had grew out of his deep thoughts and were ready to bear him away, from the confinement of the tight space allotted to him, from the heavy vertical bars on both sides, and from the ruined bridge and houses on the corners of top right and lower left, respectively, testaments of some traumatic past.

Away / 离去 / Weg
Away
Oil on Canvas
24” x 20”
Completed in 2018

Featured Painting – Our Winter of Discontent

Immediately after the devastating 2016 US presidential election, I was in the grip of a stark vision, in which innocent and powerless people were rounded up by an oppressive strongman regime. That was the inception of my new project, “Our Winter of Discontent”, to evoke an assembly of miserable, discontent, and angry people, behind a sprawling web of barbed wire and menaced by dark clouds from above. This vision was not paranoid fiction; it was based on observation of Donald Trump’s increasingly divisive and hateful rhetoric, which led to his capture of the presidency, and reaffirmed the ugly political and cultural reality of an almost apocalyptic US.

The world at large had been threatened in recent years by rising totalitarian and nationalistic trends, and the diminishing of liberal democracy. The situation worsened every day as I painted, under the weight of Trump’s daily assault on democracy, free press, the rule of law, etc. My warning vision became a sad prophecy, as many asylum seekers and their young children were brutally separated, and summarily detained. It seemed — and seems now — that things could only get worse, that those behind the barbed wire fences could well include U.S. citizens and legal immigrants, not only those deemed “illegal.”

A good vision doesn’t necessarily lead to good painting. After many months’ struggle, I put aside my first attempt, which had become somewhat too belabored, and a bit unyielding, and started over with version two. Yet, though satisfying to a certain degree, it became a bit regimented, less spontaneous, and also a bit removed from my vision of a manic world of disorder.

Having learned my lessons from those two attempts, I started a third version, and it achieved what I set out to document, with an unsettling and fluid visual style that matches our disturbing and depressing zeitgeist.

Here, the final product, “Our Winter of Discontent”.

The painting was completed before the world was assaulted by the novel Coronavirus, and most brutally affected in countries whose leaders are waging wars against science, and suppressing free press and truth. The painting was created before the tsunami of “Black Lives Matter” protests took hold in the US. But it evokes, or perhaps portends, the suffering and struggle that rolls on ceaselessly through human history.

These are the emotions and historical trends, my painting “Our Winter of Discontent” is trying to capture and reflect.

Our Winter of Discontent / 我們不滿的冬天 / Unser Winter der Unzufriedenheit

Our Winter of Discontent
Oil on Canvas
22” x 28”
Completed in 2018

Featured Painting – Anselm Kiefer’s Bathtubs

When artists strive to make things new, we can not and should not completely remove ourselves from the past or tradition. Often, the sediments of the past lend more meanings and poignancy to our new endeavors, or our new interpretations.

One of the greatest living artists Anselm Kiefer, is such an example who is steeped in tradition, and I was often moved by the historical resonances he brought forth to his monumental paintings, often through motifs connecting the past to the present, or the future. One of his striking paintings can be seen in SFMOMA, Unternehmen Seelöwe (Operation Sea Lion), placed a tin bathtub in a desolate field, containing several battleships. According to a curator, the manufacturer of those domestic bathtubs, was also manufacturer of weapons used in WWII by the Nazi armies. Such deft reference was a master stroke of Kiefer’s.

DSCN2046 - Unternehmen Seelöwe (Operation Sea Lion), Anselm Kiefer, SFMOMA Re-opening Preview 7May2016 DSCN2095 - Unternehmen Seelöwe (Operation Sea Lion) (detail), Anselm Kiefer, SFMOMA Re-opening Preview 7May2016

That painting, particularly its intriguing bathtub, left a strong impression on me, and it compelled me to record my understanding and imagination grew out of Kiefer’s motif, and led to a painting which I simply named as Anselm Kiefer’s Bathtubs, which was populated with several of such bathtubs in various planes and angles, as if floating on an open sea or in the space. Inside the central tub, a lonely-looking naked man hunched over and hugged his knees. The occupied bathtub, though surrounded by its “peers”, who were obviously in disagreement with one another, and rendered its lone occupier quite isolated and vulnerable.

Anselm Kiefer's Bathtubs / 安塞尔姆 · 基弗的浴缸 / Anselm Kiefer's Badewannen
Anselm Kiefer’s Bathtubs
22” x 28”
Oil on Canvas
Completed in 2018

Such painting is also my tribute to a leading artist of our time.

Featured Painting – Modern Man

My recent painting Modern Man is a portrait of a faceless man (or a woman) — dark, brooding, and quite uncertain — who symbolizes the anxiety-ridden man or woman of our uneasy and quite dangerous time, who’s willingly or unwillingly blind, and can only stumble along in the deep fog from which he or she could never escape. The world is a trap.

Modern Man / 現代人 / Moderner Mann
Modern Man
20″ x 16″
Oil on Canvas
Completed in 2018

Featured Painting – A Young Frechman

Painting human faces and figures, not as means to document, rather, as means to probe and investigate, is hugely challenging and exciting, and thankfully, such is also a the validity of portraiture painting in selfie age.

One of my successful attempts was a portrait of a young man, whom I saw near Musée d’Orsay in Paris, and I was intrigued by his serious and even severe countenance, and his chiseled features, intelligent, graceful, vulnerable yet vigorous, an enthralling concoction led to my 2001 painting, A Young Frenchman, which managed to capture many of these engaging characteristics.

A Young Frenchman / 一位法國青年 / Ein junger Franzose
A Young Frenchman
Oil on Canvas
24″ x 20″
Completed in 2001

Someone once wondered about the “Frenchman” in the title; I was fairly confident that the young man was a french national, because not only I saw him in France, also to me, he was the epitome of Gaullic attributes and attraction.

Featured Painting: “Net” – A Gloomy Urban Snapshot

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.

Net / 網 / Netz
Net
Oil on Canvas
30″ x 24″
Completed in 2003

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.

“Progression” – A History

My 2009 oil painting Progression, conceived and executed after our nation and the world had suffered the dark era of George W. Bush, and entered an epoch ought have ushered in some changes in the U.S. following the ascendency of President Obama. Alas. It was not to be. Many people’s feverish hope proved constructed from thin air, and the changes were ever elusive, and the human rights abuses we collectively permitted largely remain in place. The long list of human sufferings continue.

My painting attempted to catalog such sufferings in a collage of iconography images, from Jesus carrying the cross to Calvary, Michelangelo’s slave sculpture, David’s Liberty Leads People, and the hooded abused prisoner in Abu Ghraib. The focal point of the painting is the sad face of an earnest man, personification of the sorrows and compassion of humankind.

Progression / 進展 / Entwicklung, Oil on Canvas, 30"x24", Completed in 2009
Progression
Oil on Canvas
30″ x 24″
Completed in 2009

Here is a video presentation of this painting:

This painting has been choose to be part of a group exhibition, Today’s Artists Interact with Major Art Movements from the Renaissance to the Present, at Arts Passages in Berkeley (22 August – 11 November 2015), curated by Expressions Gallery in Berkeley.

Featured Oil Painting “Father and Son”

Father and Son / 父與子 / Vater und Sohn, Oil on Canvas, 20" x 16", Completed in 2013

Father and Son / 父與子 / Vater und Sohn
Oil on Canvas
20″ x 16″
Completed in 2013

Often, when I started to drift into sleep at night, my restless mind would conjure up some images more imaginative than I could think of when I was wide awake.  Sometimes, during those dreamy moments, my mind kept its presence and I was able to rouse my in order to make a quick sketch or to, attempting to capture those fleeting impressions.

A recent such instance presented me an entangled group of tight embracing muscular bodies, in agony or ecstasy.  In the end, my decipher of the image drew the conclusion that it presented the embrace and reconciliation of estranged persons who ought to be close to each other, father and son.

Base on that quick sketch, I made a monochromatic and muted yet quite evocative and powerful painting, on the theme of Prodigal Son.

The strength of this piece lies in its universal touching theme, the heartbreaking posture of those once broken men, the strong outlines of the figures and the high relief of the bodies.

The painting is small in format but big in the feelings it emotes.