The Imprint of Still Life Paintings
I really wanted to tell her, “Actually, my painting is not realistic at all….”
The genre still life has always had an irreplaceable place in my painting career. I think it is so because, like most art students, when I first started learning to paint formally, I started with still lifes. This is a lot like ducklings who imprint on any moving animal that first meets their eyes.
Except for the seven portraits in my graduation solo show, the majority of my watercolor works in university were still lifes. In retrospect, I understand now the reason I did not like to paint landscapes is that my drawing ability was only at the “basic” level of getting the structure and modeling correct. I did not yet have a good understanding of composition, rhythm, interest and taste, and each medium’s characteristics. I did not know the higher level of drawing expressions that truly make a painting great. Still life as a genre was perfect for my level and understanding of drawing at that time. In this way, my still lifes have manifested different styles in different phases of my painting career.
From my first watercolor still life Bunny and Radio, painted at eighteen, to Grapes in my thirties, I have created more than thirty watercolor still lifes larger than 31”x21”. If you look closely at them, you will find that without exception, they are all horizontal desktop compositions. This fascination with horizontal compositions, my innate visual sense of balance, and my childhood insistence on making origami with one square sheet of paper, revealed the Classicism blood that runs deep in my veins.
Although my drawing was often very “correct” at that time, I wasn’t all that interested in complete objective realism. In other words, despite my pursuit in expressing the textures, light and shadow, and advancing my painting techniques, I have never wanted to pursue simple realism. However, it is through these realistic subjects that my understanding of the nature of beauty and classic structure is inspired.
The goal I have been toiling after is simply to “make every stroke interesting and beautiful.”
(Translated by Arianne Guan Toleno）