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.
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 28” x 22”, Oil on Canvas Completed in 2021
A horizontal canvas divided into two zones, upper part is a white space being invaded by dark clouds from top, while the lower half uniformly dark. Connecting and separating these two spaces are five slightly wilting white flowers, caught in the no man’s land between these contrasting zones, with some of these flowers disintegrating and dipping further into the innermost of the dark space, like invading roots grew into hidden soil. This highly contrasting painting, C Major, depicts a world which was both harmonious and polarized, and the little exchange of these two worlds simultaneously terrifies and entices. Additional layers of lines, spots, and scratch marks, give the painting a patina of an aged photograph.
C major, one of the most common key signatures used in western music, was often the key for many Masses and settings of Te Deum in the Classical era, such as works by Haydn and Mozart. Without flats and sharps, C Major perfectly encapsulates the seemingly absolute separation of order and chaos. Though a bit dated and fading, like an old family album, we still yearn for it, for its orderliness and predictability, which seems forever beyond reach; in today’s world, no matter which key dominates, dissonance persists.
My first oil painting completed in 2017, The Wash, continued to explore and express spatial relationship and (ir)regular patterns. This landscape was inspired by some haunting though dimming images crossed path with me a long while ago, of some laundered white sheets, blown wildly by strong wind, struggling to remain on the laundry lines. The rhythmic movements of those flapping sheets generated an atmosphere of both orderly and unruly, and such sense of drama was heightened by the stark contrasts between the blindingly bright sheets and the dark soil and sky, which foretold a menacing storm, poising to ruin the pristine cleanness of those vulnerable sheets.
Recently I created an installation Wilting Flowers and fully documented the creation and installation processes.
This new effort was spurred by my continued fascination with paper material – delicate, malleable, and transitory, characteristics well suited for hinting at, versus representing, a world full of fragility and vulnerability, constantly under the threat of total destruction.
My local newspaper, “The San Francisco Chronicle”, served as the foundation: a segment of our time, distilled and encapsulated. Inky strokes and splashes were added to the newspaper sheets, which were folded and tied up to form large flowers, with aluminum wires wrapped with dyed twine as stems.
For the background, I chose five sheets of plain white paper, streaked with similar black strokes of ink diluted with various amount of water.
To install, I attached these background paper to a wall in an uneven row, then affixed those flowers, 13 total, to those sheets. There were no strict rules about how to lay out the background sheets and flowers, as long as the finished installation looked balanced, and the flowers largely faced outwards.
I have installed these sheets and flowers on different surfaces – a colorful graffitied plywood wall, or somber looking wooden fences, at different times of the day. The differences between the surfaces, the different light cast on the wall or fence, background sheets and paper flowers, all contributed to a murmuring polyphony.
Ink on paper and newspaper, aluminum wire, cotton string
40″ x 140″ x 5″
Completed in 2016
My Mirage, a fantastic painting, was based on a vision visited me when I was falling asleep but with enough mental presence to get up to make quick notes – a distant town, whose outlines barely discernible, in the manner of those commonly seen in old Dutch or Flemish landscape paintings, overwhelmed by several enormous and boldly sketched black feathers floating above the sky. Behind those dark and somewhat ominous feathers, a delicately pretty pale blue sky flashed through persistently. Yet, despite the seemingly menace, those dark feathers also looked rather protective and comforting. A world of ambiguity.
My 2000 oil painting, Stairwell, is a monochromatic and atmospheric piece, which captures when early morning light, through side window, penetrates the darkness in a narrow stairwell, casting bright light into the confined, darkness permeated space. Though means of chiaroscuro, together with more subtle interplay of light and dark, I managed not only to have created an overall dramatic atmosphere, also given a clear definition to the tricky space through receding orders, and added depth and accenting details to the sparse and otherwise flat and dreary confinement.
This painting has been snatched away as soon as the paint dried, and last week I received this notification from Owen Wister Review of University of Wyoming:
The OWR would really like to publish your art pieces “Ink and Watercolor Lilies,” “Stairwell,” and “Rafting” in this year’s issue. The colors in your pieces spark emotion in the composition and the texturized strokes are memorable in your work. Attached is a consent form; if you agree please print the form, sign it and scan it back, then email it to us or send it in by mail. Again we really liked your work.
I am quite thrilled and grateful for the recognition.
I am very proud of my 2007 oil painting “Mackerel”, in which I managed to capture both beautiful and sinister elements of a daily object, fulfilling a most tantalizing pursuit of mine.
With its intense colors and bold strokes, this painting economically presents a sleekly fish, intently staring upwards, as if ready to confront its captor; at the meanwhile, its eye also betrayed the fish’s sad resignation to its imminent demise. The background of the painting was plain drop cloth, hatched lightly, and dominated by sickly greenish-yellow from the left and graduated to an intense blue to the right. The intense vertical blue patch also represents the deep water being turned upright, in a disorientated world.
Mackerel Oil on Canvas 28″ x 22″ Completed in 2007
This painting was just awarded of 1st 2015 ArtSlant Showcase Winner.
It was also selected for exhibition at ViewPoint 2009, 41st Annual National Juried Art Competition, Cincinnati Art Club, Ohio, November 2009.
This painting was included in two-person show at Trilogy Studio, San Francisco, 2011, and it was exhibited at Artist-Xchange Gallery, San Francisco, in 2009.
The medium or media we choose to convey our deepest feelings and expressions, etc., however competent, can never fully convey the whole complicated concepts our brain formed mysteriously, thus the endless striving to meet the challenge, to do a better job still in the next given opportunity, thus the hunger to develop and grow as an artist, be it visual, musical compositional or a writing kind.
It also occurs often enough that one form of artistic creation, spurs on the re-interpretation with another media of either the whole story or a fleeting moment, not necessarily to prove a better job can be done; rather, to add another dimension to the engaging concept while hoping to complement the original.
I have been stimulated, on multiple occasions, by novels I read, sometimes the whole atmosphere of the book, such as Blindness by José Saramago, or sometimes, just a specific passage which may not even be pivotal in the whole scheme, such as my newly completed oil painting, Arabesque, inspired by a passage from The Known World by Edward P. Jones: “… looked over at the open chiffarobe [sic], whose door was broken and so would never close properly, looked at the black dress hanging there. It seemed to have its own life, so much life that it could have come down and walked over and placed itself over her body. Fastened itself.”
Arabesque oil on canvas, 28″x22″, 2013
I actually was quite stirred by the passage and the image just flooded into my mind. Incidentally, this painting also fell into a painting scheme of mine – I have been working on a series of “White Dresses”, which I saw as both liberated and restricted, at once individual and impersonal, simultaneously beautiful and sinister. Now it started the companion series “Black Dress”.