Statement

A SERIES OF STATEMENTS

 

I have come to realize — belatedly — that at the heart of my work is the issue of identity. The Mandala series from the 2010’s were about my ethnic identity — the crossing of Eastern and Western cultures that I embody. The current work, a series of small, geometric, non-referential gouache and marker drawings can be looked at formally — in terms of line, form, shape, color, space, texture, and value. But I admit that I see them clustering around different themes. For example, the drawings from 2020 speak to the issue of navigating within constraints; they are about the created environment, with a focus on elements that intrude and move through the depicted world.

We have to abide by the laws of nature and the laws of man; we are all socialized to live within society, to play by the rules. Although we live within guardrails, it is our job to navigate a personal way of going through life, of being in the world that gives us enough flexibility to be ourselves, to fulfill our needs, to accomplish our personal goals. I think these works reflect this particular aspect of the human condition —the need to learn how to flourish within constraints.

The 2019 drawings seem to be about the slow process of unveiling, recognizing, seeing, knowing and understanding. In other words, they are about the time it takes to acquire knowledge, information, acquaintanceship. In life we are taken in by the large, bright, obvious aspects of people and things. Truly getting to know somebody or something is a slow process. We are often fooled by the presentation (people, after all, are known to lie even to themselves); we discover things in layers: it takes discernment and long exposure to perceive the deeper truths.

THE MANDALA SERIES

The paintings fuse pictorial language from three different cultural traditions – Eastern, Middle Eastern, and European/American. I believe all art making is devotional: when we are telling stories, singing, dancing, drawing, carving, we are directly engaged in spiritual activities that takes us out of time into different realms.

Sumptuous, intricate, ornamented, my oil paintings are richly referential – they call to mind a range of associations from mandalas, the cosmos, cells, lace, brocade and more. I align myself with the long tradition of geometric and floral ornamentation the Far Eastern, Middle Eastern, and European craftsmen have long employed. They did so with the implicit understanding that pattern and repetition, which are endemic in nature, are primal in their rhythmic connection to the human nervous system.

I identify my work with the long tradition of visual artists interested in notions of cosmology. I am, as my friend the artist Thomas Lyon Mills says, painting worlds within worlds with the aim of revealing profound, contemplative, slow, truths.