I opened the year of 2022 with a substantial and exciting challenge: to create two special pieces commissioned in the style of my older work. Some of my viewers may be aware that before I settled into my current focus on California flora and fauna, my artwork heavily incorporated themes and motifs from my Malaysian heritage: a reflection of my own personal journey. Creating a new piece with an older style involves a reacquainting process, not only with previous artistic habits and techniques, but with a former self.
This unique commission was being created to complement a triptych of my lotus paintings which had been selected for a client’s newly built home. The triptych’s three pieces, titled After the Bloom I and II and Sanguine Moon, were some of my personal favorites in my collection, painted in 2013 and 2014. The color palette evokes the warmth of "Indian Summer" evenings that signal the coming of fall. Golden tendrils of the setting sun give way to hues of purple as nightfall approaches. Prominent in all three pieces is the arrival of the Harvest Moon, often the brightest and largest full moon--a key transitional moment to autumn. My signature lotus leaves and blooms also sway in the foreground, beginning to fade. As the growing season of the lotus plant comes to an end, nature prepares itself for the coming winter and promise of spring, when life begins anew.
After the Bloom I and II - 36x48, acrylic on canvas (L)
Sanguine Moon - 36x32, acrylic on canvas (R)
After the three pieces were submitted to the Statewide Competition and Exhibition at the Triton Museum in Santa Clara, I stowed them away in my collection, waiting for the right client to come along. Those clients appeared in 2021, seven years after the triptych was completed. They had lost their home in the 2017 Tubbs fire and were in the process of finding art for their new home. In a fortuitous meeting, they happened upon my studio and discovered my work. After reviewing the available artwork on my website, they asked if I could visit their home and bring the triptych to try out in their large corridor entrance. I brought several pieces for evaluation, including the triptych. The corridor was the perfect place for a mini-gallery, with a large empty wall on one side and ideal lighting. My clients’ home also reflected their love of Asian aesthetics and Japanese literature/art.
The triptych paired so beautifully with the visuals of their home that the clients asked if I would create another two-panel composition in the same style to complement the lotus paintings and fill out the corridor. I returned home and started sketching. The finished designs featured highly symbolic elements from Chinese tradition. The left panel pictured lotus blossoms together with dragonflies and egrets, while the right panel featured peonies, butterflies, and hummingbirds. A dragon tendril motif grounded and connected the two panels, signifying power, strength, and good luck for the home.
After their approval, I began the painting process, which required an intensive three months to complete both panels. I found myself frequently challenged in returning to techniques I had employed years earlier, such as attaching rice paper to the canvas to establish texture, or using dripping paint to evoke the feeling of rain. At times, I wondered if I could really surpass my own work. But when I finally put my brush down, I could see how my artistic experiences had come together to meet the challenge. The final compositions certainly include the organic curvilinear shapes, Asian motifs, and sense of tranquility found in my previous work, while incorporating more dimensional, lifelike details and theme of symbiosis with dragonflies, birds and butterflies. I titled the pieces Garden of Enchantments to express my intention for the finished piece--to create a space, an opening that welcomes imagination and delight. I’m so thankful my clients gave me the opportunity to create such a centerpiece for their beautiful newly rebuilt home.
We are so happy to have these paintings in our home. They are a focal point that we truly cherish. They set the tone for the entire house, as they suggest the tranquility and transience embedded within eastern thought, a sentiment we try to honor every day. We love how the paintings can be appreciated both near and far. They are a commanding presence and can be powerful from a distant vantage point, yet, at the same time, there are enchanting details contained within each canvas that can be appreciated up close. We hope that each visitor to our home finds delight in these paintings. We are deeply grateful for your addition to our home.