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 — are more internal.

The Current work

The drawings from 2020 are related to, but different from their predecessors. The work have a more concrete and focused presentation of the environment. Instead of being focused on objects in space, the specificity of each environment/situation dominates each picture.

I perceive a focus on navigation within constraints. 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, or societal goals. I think these works reflect this particular aspect of the human condition — of the need to learn how to flourish within constraints.

2019 Works on Paper

I view the 2019 drawings in the aggregate to be focused on the slow process of unveiling, recognizing, seeing, knowing and understanding.

They speak to the presentation of the self. People are complex, layered: we are comfortable with certain aspects of ourselves which we foreground or project outwardly; keeping in the distance, obscured, layered — aspects of ourselves that feel more tender, vulnerable, private. Perhaps because I am aware of this tendency in myself, I see the layering, the veiling, as choices we make in what we reveal, how much, and when.

Alternately the drawings can be looked at as being about the time it takes to acquire knowledge, information, acquaintanceship. 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 to themselves; thus it takes time and we discover things in layers: it takes discernment and long exposure to perceive the deeper truths.

 

The Mandala Series

My paintings fuse pictorial language from three different cultural and religious traditions – Eastern Hindu-Buddhist, Middle Eastern Islamic, and European Judeo-Christian. I do not make religious art: I view my work as entirely secular. But secularism does not preclude the spiritual, the contemplative, the mystical, or the sacred. If pressed I would admit I think all art making is devotional. I believe when we are telling stories, singing, dancing, drawing, carving, we are directly engaged in spiritual activities that takes us out of time into a different realm.

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.

My recent works on paper speak more of inner worlds. They are small, intimate, airy, and delicate; they refer to the ways we hide and reveal ourselves — 

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.