Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Literature Inspired Paintings

For me, what to paint is very crucial - unless it's a commissioned work, I often wrack my brain to come up with a right idea. Sometimes, an image comes to my mind like a flashlight, and sometimes a concept precedes an image. Sometimes, I dream of something hard to pin down and sometimes a great work of literature serves as seed and soil for my work to develop.

I have painted two paintings directly inspired by books I read.

I was deeply moved by passages in The Tin Drum (Die Blechtrommel) by Günter Grass, depicting the grandmother of the protagonist. In the early part of the book, in her layers and layers of earth-colored skirts, she worked in the fields, and squatted to rest just before her future husband found shelter from hot pursuers underneath her skirts. She was a young woman then. Later on in the book, as an old woman, she was sitting again, this time in a market selling roasted potatoes, with a hot brick underneath her skirts in order to stay warm. These vivid images inspired me to create a sitting woman, old, against a forbidding landscape: immobile, sad yet touching, displaying her knobby hands like weapons, ready to punch at anything harsh life throws at her.

My painting "Blindness" was inspired by Blindness (Portuguese: Ensaio sobre a cegueira, meaning Essay on Blindness) by José Saramago -- no one scene, but the novel as a whole. I was touched by the sudden breakdown of social order and surface nicety due to an unexpected and inexplicable epidemic. The book brought to imaginative life the core of my belief that human beings are capable of anything - evil or angelic. I tried to capture the bleakness I felt after reading the book, instead of attempting to illustrate any particular passages.

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