Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Featured Painting -- Congregation

A giant verdant tree, erect on its strong and knobbly roots, full of colorful chairs hanging from its riotously wide-spreading branches, is quite a heartwarming congregation. Warm and deep colors intertwined with shades cool and pale, helps to create modulating and shifting moods.

Despite joyous colors of those chairs, their positions are somewhat precarious, manifested in a lone chair underneath the seemingly carefree gathering, clinging to the roots of the tree — knocked down, a fallen one, or a cast out one? It would be up to viewers to interpret.

 Apropos viewer’s perception, I was also somewhat surprised to hear from a friend on how disturbing the painting was. Those swinging chairs, somewhat called more disturbing images to his mind — hanging bodies swinging in high branches, echoing those from war times documented by Goya, or from not so distant periods of concentrated lynching, whose records were fading fast from our collective memory. This linkage to the darkness was so serendipitous, that even I needed such illumination. Apparently, my intention, combining with viewers’ interpretation, could have generated much more interesting dialogue, thus create another form of congregation.

 Congregation / 聚會 / Gemeinde

This painting currently is being exhibited at Berkeley Central Arts Passage, as part of the Unity show (June 16th - October 13th, 2018)


Originally posted on matthewfelixsun.com

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Saturday, May 26, 2018

Xinle Ruin in Shenyang, China

My home city Shenyang, despite being outside historical Chinese empire till just a couple centuries ago, it does boast a few cultural and historical relics, one of which was the 6,800-7,200 years old, late neolithic period Xinle Ruin.

Modern sculptures depicting activities and people during that time, or replica of some important finding, greeted visitors at the entrance and frontal plaza.

DSCN2296 - Relief at the Entrance, Xinle Ruin, Shenyang DSCN2297 - Relief at the Entrance, Xinle Ruin, Shenyang

DSCN2176 - Xinle Ruin, Shenyang

DSCN2280 - Sun Bird Column, Xinle Ruin, Shenyang
Sun Bird Column, based on a wood-sculptured bird unearthed on site

There were some atmospheric replica huts on the ground, surrounding a few protected spots, which preserved the site when being excavated in modern time.

DSCN2292 - Huts replica, Xinle Ruin, Shenyang
Replica Huts

DSCN2283 - Ruin, Shenyang

DSCN2284 - Xinle Ruin, Shenyang

In a modest museum behind the sites and the reconstructed huts, some interest discoveries were on display, including nuts, stoneware, clay vessels, and as the center piece, a wood-sculptured bird unearthed there, which was the earliest cultural relic in Shenyang, as well as one of oldest wood sculptures found anywhere in the world. Perhaps, it was too precious, so only the replica was on display.

DSCN2288 - Sun bird, Wood sculpture replica, Xinle Ruin, Shenyang
Sun bird, Wood sculpture replica

DSCN2180 - Stone Grinding Plate, Xinle Ruin, Shenyang

DSCN2182 - Tree Nuts, Nut Shell, Xinle Ruin, Shenyang
Tree Nuts, Nut Shell

DSCN2186 - Clay Potteries, Xinle Ruin, Shenyang
Clay Potteries

DSCN2187 - Clay Potteries, Xinle Ruin, Shenyang

DSCN2192 - Stone Leaves, Xinle Ruin, Shenyang
Stone Leaves

DSCN2195 - Stone Arrows, Xinle Ruin, Shenyang
Stone Arrows

DSCN2203 - Pottery Vessel, Xinle Ruin, Shenyang
Pottery Vessel

DSCN2223 - Pottery Vessel, Xinle Ruin, Shenyang

DSCN2227 - Potteries, Xinle Ruin, Shenyang

DSCN2271 - Pottery Vessel, Xinle Ruin, Shenyang DSCN2276 - Pottery Steamer, Xinle Ruin, Shenyang

I found these strange- and primitive- looking vessels the aesthetic highlight of the exhibition.


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Friday, May 11, 2018

Featured Drawing "Formation"

The monotonous grayness of the cold climate landscape, though off-putting to some, holds special attraction for me, perhaps, nostalgia is the root of such attachment. I love the blanketing quietness stealthily imposed upon the environment, and appreciate the occasional higher values (not necessarily more vibrant colors) which enliven the space rhythmically and musically. My charcoal drawing Formation is such a presentation of the cool, unyielding, yet not totally unfriendly northern place which tenderly and harshly nurtured my growth. Almost puritanical, yet beautiful in its heart-rending austere bleakness.

Formation / 行列 / Gestaltung
Formation
11.5” x 18”
Charcoal on Paper
Completed in 2018
Originally posted on matthewfelixsun.com


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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Featured Painting "Birches"

A vision serendipitously visited me, and my subsequent partially-successful effort to capture it, resulted in a sparse and drawing like oil painting, Birches. The vision I pursued was a field of blurry birch woods, with the outlines of those slender white trunks emerging and disappearing constantly into darker background, as if the constant ripples of a vast waterbody. My final painting looked almost like the negative of that vision - bright serene background, on which floated silhouettes of several birch trunks, branches, and leaves, isolated or in clusters, in panoramic view, or zoomed-in detail.

Birches / 樺樹 / Birken  
Birches
22" x 28"
Oil on Canvas 
Completed in 2018

Originally posted on matthewfelixsun.com


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Thursday, April 5, 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.

Originally posted on matthewfelixsun.com


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Sunday, February 25, 2018

Erasing the Rules - A Robert Rauschenberg Retrospective at SFMOMA

The long creative career of the iconic American artist Robert Rauschenberg (1925 - 2008) has left an incredibly diverse body of work, which proved to be intriguing, whimsical, and sometimes deeply profound, as seen in a special exhibition at SFMOMA, titld Robert Rauschenberg: Erasing the Rules (November 18, 2017–March 25, 2018):
From the 1940s until his passing in 2008, Rauschenberg worked with everything from photography to items scavenged from New York City streets to vats of bubbling mud. More than 150 of Rauschenberg’s artworks, including prints, sculptures, paintings, and Combines (works that incorporate painting and sculpture), will be on view in the retrospective Robert Rauschenberg: Erasing the Rules, celebrating the artist’s continual experimentation with materials and collaborative working processes. The exhibition demonstrates how, with razor-sharp humor and intelligence, Rauschenberg broke down boundaries between disciplines, anticipated many of the defining cultural and social issues of our time, and redefined what art could be for the generations of artists who followed.
The exhibition was largely organized in chronological order, thus gave the viewers a clear sense of the evolution of the artist, and also certain trends of the art world.

First group mostly consisted of chromatic graphic works from the 1950s and they were quite fascinating.

DSCN0146 _ Sue, Robert Rauschenberg & Susan Weil, SFMOMA
Sue, c 1950, Robert Rauschenberg & Susan Weil

DSCN0147 _ Untitles (Scatole personali), Rauschenberg, c 1952
Untitles (Scatole personali), c 1952

DSCN0149 _ 22 The Lily White, Robert Rauschenberg DSCN0155 _ Erased de Kooning Drawing, Rauschenberg, 1953
22 The Lily White, 1951 & Erased de Kooning Drawing, 1953

DSCN0150 _ A Print Designed to exist in passing time, Rauschenberg, 1948
A Print Designed to exist in passing time, Rauschenberg, 1948

IMG_6628 _ Automobile Tire Print, 1953, Robert Rauschenberg
Automobile Tire Print, 1953

DSCN0157 _ Untitled (Night Blooming), Rauschenberg, c 1951 DSCN0159 _ Untitled [black painting], Rauschenberg, 1952
Untitled (Night Blooming), c 1951 & Untitled [black painting], 1952

Later on, his works obtained more colors and the third dimension, literally.

DSCN0167 _ Untitled, Rauschenberg
Untitled, 1958

DSCN0168 _ Bed, Rauchenberg, 1955 DSCN0193 _ First Time Painting, Rauschenberg, 1961
Bed, 1955 & First Time Painting, 1961

DSCN0182 _ Monogram, 1955–59, Robert Rauschenberg
Monogram, 1955-59

DSCN0170 _ Factum I & Factum II, Rauschenberg, 1957 & 1957
Factum I & Factum II, 1957 & 1957

One of his most ambitious and impactful accomplishment was a cycle of thirty-four illustrations for Inferno, with complex motifs and compositions, and appealingly understated palettes. These illustrations were as profound as they were beautiful.

DSCN0188 _ Thirty-Four Illustrations for Inferno (1-4, 18-21), Rauschenberg, 1958-60
Thirty-Four Illustrations for Inferno (1-4, 18-21), 1958-60

DSCN0189 _ Thirty-Four Illustrations for Inferno (5-8, 22-25), Rauschenberg, 1958-60
Thirty-Four Illustrations for Inferno (5-8, 22-25), 1958-60

DSCN0190 _ Thirty-Four Illustrations for Inferno (9-12, 26-29), Rauschenberg, 1958-60
Thirty-Four Illustrations for Inferno (9-12, 26-29), 1958-60

 DSCN0191 _ Thirty-Four Illustrations for Inferno (13-17, 30-34), Rauschenberg, 1958-60
Thirty-Four Illustrations for Inferno (13-17, 30-34), 1958-60

DSCN0197 _ Thirty-Four Illustrations for Inferno, Rauschenberg, 1958-60
Thirty-Four Illustrations for Inferno, 1958-60

Moving to the 1970s, Rauschenberg produced more works in three dimensions, and sometimes with additional mechanical motions and even sound, a fourth dimension.

DSCN0203 _ Mud Muse, Rauschenberg, 1968-71
Mud Muse, 1968-71

DSCN0212 _ Untitled (Venetian), Rauschenberg, 1973
Untitled (Venetian), 1973

Some were startlingly delicate, such as the Glacier and Jetty (Hoarfrost), and some robust and foreboding, such as Sor Aqua (Venetia).

DSCN0214 _ Glacier (Hoarfrost), Rauschenberg, 1974 DSCN0216 _ Jetty (Hoarfrost), Rauschenberg, 1974
Glacier (Hoarfrost), 1974 & Jetty (Hoarfrost), 1974

DSCN0220 _ Sor Aqua (Venetia), Rauschenberg, 1973
Sor Aqua (Venetia), 1973

Another highlight was his 1978 Hiccups, a group of paintings/prints on paper and zipped together into a long band, in no specified order. They were intriguing, beautiful, and deeply touching, for reasons hard to pin down.

DSCN0226 _ Hiccups (partial), Rauschenberg, 1978
Hiccups (partial), 1978

DSCN0223 _ Hiccups (partial), Rauschenberg, 1978

DSCN0230 _ Hiccups (partial), Rauschenberg, 1978

DSCN0233 _ Hiccups (partial), Rauschenberg, 1978

IMG_6634 _ Hiccups, Rauschenberg, 1978
Hiccups, 1978

I also like several pieces from late, such as the 1991 Holiday Ruse (Night Shade), when he was in his mid-seventies.

DSCN0234 _ Holiday Ruse (Night Shade), Rauschenberg, 1991
Holiday Ruse (Night Shade), 1991

DSCN0238 _ Catastrophe (Arcadian Retreat), Rauschenberg, 1996
Catastrophe (Arcadian Retreat), 1996

DSCN0240 _ Jap, 1999, Robert Rauschenberg
Jap, 1999

DSCN0242 _ Eagle Eye (Ruminations), 1999, Robert Rasuchenberg
Eagle Eye (Ruminations), 1999

Great encounter with this amazing artist.


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