Geometry plays a profound role in art, and nowhere is this more evident in my work than in my use of circles. They carry a spiritual connotation, representing unity, infinity, and time. With no beginning or end, a circle can be viewed as a static whole or an endlessly moving cycle. Many celestial phenomena are circular - the sun, the earth, the moon, the orbits of the planets, the universe, and countless cultures and religions have viewed the circle as a significant symbol. In Chinese symbology for instance, the circle represents the shape of heaven, juxtaposed with the square symbol of earth to represent the connection between our spiritual and physical natures. The famous yin yang symbol meanwhile utilizes the circle as a frame to represent balance in conflict.
In my own work, the circle prominently appears in each series. They arise in the abundant dotting of Dreamland, the abstract orbs of Gross National Happiness, the yantras of Worlds Collide, the chakras of Zen Dot Energy, and the various mandalas of Unseen Universes. My use of circles has for the most part been unconscious, and it wasn’t until I recently looked back and reflected that I saw the importance of this visual and thematic rapport.
Amidst the animated dotting of Zen Dot Energy, chakras become a common motif, appearing in many of the paintings including Black White Red, Equilibrium, and One of Many. The word “chakra” is a Sanskrit word that means “wheel”, as these centers of energy rotate and thrive within our spiritual selves. The following series Unseen Universes was perhaps my most deliberate use of circles as I utilized circular canvases that were then attached to the background paintings, allowing the circle to stand out and take on a life of its own. This method was utilized in paintings such as Ode to Georgia O’Keeffe, Mandala in Nature, Cosmic Quilt, and Ways To Go. The abstract colorful circles of GNH and the electric dotting of Dreamland meanwhile convey a spiritual vibrance in the artwork. They are not the focus of the work but rather controlling elements of the background, adding further structure to each piece.
For me, the circle is highly spiritual. There is something so significant about how a shape so simple can carry so many different connotations. In painting, the use of such a common symbol can at times be subconscious - the power of the repetition is something that grows over time and across many visual landscapes within series. I see the symbol of the circle as a resonating tone that moves in waves through my works, generating an intrinsic harmony within the saturated and complex visual realm. It is perhaps my quiet guide, my familiar path, moving forever in step with nature's sacred cycle of life. You can certainly expect to continue seeing this sacred symbol featured in my work in the future.
I discovered the art of Yang Yongliang during last year’s Art New York Fair at Pier 94, presented by Art Miami. The Chinese artist’s photography struck me in its monumentality and detail. From a distance, the work entitled From The New World appeared to be a traditional Chinese landscape “shan shui” painting in black and white, but upon closer inspection, it is actually a digital construction, a photographic collage depicting urbanization. Monumental residential skyscrapers stack on top of each other to create complex architectural cliffs, and trees are replaced by massive cranes and power lines. The primary light source comes not from above, but from the congested metropolis illuminating the smog-choked air. Yongliang's industrial visions are both beautiful in composition and technique but dismal in subject matter.
A native of Shanghai, Yongliang is no stranger to urbanization. In only 20 years, Shanghai has become almost unrecognizable in its almost aggressive development. Having studied calligraphy through college and various other traditional media, Yongliang is concerned by how quickly China has been abandoning its rich history and culture. In order to explore this, he thus developed his current style of combining new technology with traditional Chinese art. Aside from photography, Yongliang also works in video and animation.
For more information on Yang Yongliang, check out his website, www.yangyongliang.com. He is represented by Galerie Paris-Beijing. The Creator's Project also interviewed and filmed him as he went to photograph a demolished neighborhood in Shanghai.
The following is a brief list of the online resources I browse for open calls for art. These websites include listings for solo and group show exhibitions, artist residencies, art festivals, internships, and many other opportunities. Oftentimes there will be overlaps with the same listing appearing on multiple sites. In general, persistence is key. Always keep checking to see what new opportunities are available and utilize all that that the internet has to offer.
The following is a list of the websites in the order that I regularly visit them:
Art Deadline - www.artdeadline.com
Art Deadline is the standard go-to for open calls for art. Their website states that they “receive and publish more opportunities and event listings per day than any other service.” Once a subscription service, now you can freely browse its list of competitions, portfolio submissions, festivals, residencies, and more. The site began implementing an improved interface with colored labels and an easier way to filter out unwanted listings, along with a geographical search. Although there is no log-in required, there is an option for a premium subscription with various features including networking and promotional opportunities.
NYFA - New York Foundation for the Arts - www.nyfa.org
Another organization that consistently has a varied list of great opportunities is the New York Foundation for the Arts. There is no log-in required to browse the listings, and there are new updates every weekday. Obviously there is a focus on New York, but there are national and international calls posted sporadically as well. Listings can also be sorted by date, location, and type.
CaFÉ - www.CallForEntry.org
CaFÉ, short for Call for Entry, is another free database with a large selection of opportunities to send your art. The website is run by the Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF), so you can expect a lot of listings for galleries and museums in California, Arizona, and so on. There is also an abundance of calls for public art.
A benefit about CaFÉ is that it makes submitting to an open call a breeze once you have your profile and portfolio set up. You can upload up to 100 images that you then label and select for exhibition. Up to 6 audio and video files can be uploaded as well. All submittal fees are also taken care of within the website.
Entrythingy - www.entrythingy.com
Entrythingy is not the best website for searching for open calls. Although it does have a database that you can scroll through, the interface is a bit crowded with text, and the types of calls are only broken down into two categories - “Festivals and Fairs” and “Museums, Galleries, Art Centers, and Clubs.”
Oftentimes you will end up on this website though as a link from other places like NYFA or Art Deadline, as institutions will us it as the platform for submission. It has a similar system to CaFÉ where you can upload artworks for later use, and entry fees are built into the application process.
Honorable Mentions: The Art List, The Art Guide
With my last three series - Zen Dot Energy, Unseen Universes, and Worlds Collide - I decided to devote some time to assembling them into high quality, professional art books that could be purchased through my website or at exhibitions. Publishing your own art book is a rewarding process, and the final product is a great way to market your work. Anyone with the proper software can do the same, and there are lots of printers available online who will offer quotes and assist with any production-related questions.
In the initial phases, it’s important to decide on dimensions, paper type, length, and various other elements all of which will determine the final cost. Higher quality paper and hardcover books will obviously be more expensive than a paperback with thinner paper. However, sometimes the extra costs are worth it in the end.
In designing, it’s always important to look at other art and photography books for inspiration to see how others have assembled artwork into book form. One that figured strongly into my design process was Elizabeth Murray’s stunning retrospective book published by the Museum of Modern Art. The common order for these books includes introductions and artist statements at the beginning, followed by the artworks themselves, and an index of plates at the end, reiterating the title, size, and date for each piece. An interview is another great way to explore the mind of the artist and offer the audience more insights into the creative process. A resume and biography at the end are helpful to include as well for added reference.
If you’re new to Adobe software, in particular InDesign, the internet has a wealth of resources for beginners to jump into the program and get designing. Here are just a few:
Skillshare: Basic Indesign - Layouts, Type, and Images [Requires a Skillshare account]
There are other programs that can be used to design and publish a book, but InDesign has really become the industry standard that everyone should have available in their tool belt.
The book publisher that I recommend is Art Bookbindery. Based in Manitoba, Canada, they have proven to be reliable and responsive, and the overall production process, from proof to print, didn’t take as long as expected.
The Plains Indians exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art brought together a vast multitude of artifacts including sculptural works, embroidery, clothing, and more to showcase the rich culture of the Plains Indians. The exhibition was a massive endeavor, bringing together over 150 pieces from ancient times to present day. The fascinating works on display conveyed a strong connection to nature and spirituality in terms of the materials and subject matter. The exhibition also served as a study on how outside influences can dramatically change a culture. With European explorers arriving in the 16th century, the lives of the Plains Indians dramatically changed through colonization. The Met describes the history of the Plains Indians as “one of survival and adaptation, and their arts reflect the loss, persistence, and renewal of traditions.”
Artists have long used dreams as inspiration for their work. The Surrealists in particular were fascinated with the content of dreams, and much of their work was informed by the subconscious mind and the teachings of Freud.
A recent dream I had enlightened me on how to approach my latest installation. It informed me to create a work that peels back the layers of the canvas into the underbelly, revealing a hidden world. My latest series Buddha Head incorporates the majestic Himalayan landscapes of Bhutan and Nepal, and a motif throughout the work is the presence of prayer flags. These colorful strings of cloth are a common sight in the region and are said to bring wisdom and peace. In the new installation, these prayer flags will be the layers to be pulled back, adding depth to the piece and inviting viewers into the experience.
Dreams have informed my work in the past. The title of another recent painting of mine, The Prophet, came to me in a dream as well.
I recently took a trip to Scottsdale, Arizona where I had the opportunity to check out Taliesen West, the winter home and architectural school of famed modernist architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Established in 1937 at the foot of the McDowell Mountains, Wright himself designed the headquarters and frequently made new improvements and modifications over the years.
The stunning complex strongly conveys a sense of place, carved into the surrounding desert. Wright insisted on using locally-sourced materials, so much of the structure is composed of rocks and wood from the area fused together with cement. Translucent canvas was also widely used in the structure, particularly in the drafting room. This allowed more light to invigorate the space with natural energy and connect it with the elements.
Taliesen West adheres to the modernist principles and attention to detail favored by Wright, endowing the rock-filled structure with a primitive elegance. It was powerful to experience such an architectural marvel that carries on Wright’s legacy to this day as the home of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture and the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.
My creative process begins with the assemblage of collage studies. As a world traveler, much of my inspiration comes from the places I visit, particularly those of a spiritual nature. While traveling, I photograph as much as possible, so that upon returning home, I can review what I've documented and select imagery for the creative process. The Internet and books also offer a wealth of visual knowledge to discover and utilize.
Creating collage studies is an enlightening process, allowing me to contemplate the imagery and explore its meaning. My work combines distinct cultures with cosmic or biological imagery, so connecting the various components gives me a chance to see how these varied ancient, scientific, and spiritual realms relate. Although I consciously know the intended imagery, the compositions form organically as I overlap and interlock the varying elements. Each collage informs the next, creating a story for the new series. Laying out the collages also determines the number of canvases for each piece, whether it be a single canvas, diptych, or multi-panel installation.
Once I have compiled about ten to fifteen collages for a new series, the painting process begins, translating the imagery into a grand scale.
I have been constructing large-scale, multi-canvas installations for quite awhile, from Zen/Dot/Energy’s “Equilibrium” to the more recent “In the Land of the Thunder Dragon,” a work from my new series Buddha Head. Working with large-scale installations makes the art much more powerful, creating an experience that you can’t get from the tiny square canvases that one often finds nowadays hanging in a gallery. Installations envelop the viewer, inviting them into the imagery and producing a strong emotional impact.
Working with installations generally requires a more complex, engaging creative process. Each individual canvas needs to be able to stand on its own but also serve its purpose in the full piece without throwing off the compositional balance. Using collage studies, I am able to plan out the artwork before I begin painting to ensure that the full piece works cohesively.
Working with multiple smaller canvases also serves a more practical purpose. Constructing packaging for large canvases is time-consuming, and shipping the artwork for exhibition can prove expensive. By making installations that break down, you can then pack them into smaller boxes and pay lower shipping costs to send them out to galleries. If your packaging exceeds a certain size, it can’t be shipped via a regular shipping method, say FedEx Express, and may require freight or a specialized art shuttle. By fitting multiple canvases into a smaller box, you can avoid this restriction and ship much more economically. If necessary, you can also send individual sections of the installation to serve as a representative of the whole in an exhibition as well.
The following are some examples of installations I have made in the recent years:
Now and again someone says something about your art that you will never forget. Recently at Artexpo New York, a fellow painter visited my booth and quietly observed the work. After coming over to collect the various Dreamland marketing materials I had sitting on the table, he remarked to me that my art gave off such positive energy that it had a medicinal quality, that it can make one feel healthier in the same way a doctor can. I was so taken aback and grateful for his compliment. Encounters such as this motivate me to continue my art process. You never know the effect that you art can have on a person.
From April 23-26, 2015, art enthusiasts and industry insiders convened at Pier 94 in Midtown Manhattan for Artexpo New York. The annual art fair has a long history, regarding itself as “the world’s largest fine art trade show for 37+ years.” It is also one of the few art fairs in existence that offers artists the opportunity to exhibit their work without gallery affiliation.
Buddhist philosophy teaches that if you show intent, then the universe will open up to new opportunities. Although they can be a large investment of time and money, art fairs are an excellent way to gain exposure for your work, offering the public and professional art world a glimpse at what you’ve been producing. You never know when the right person might come along who could offer you a solo show or purchase one of your pieces. Preparation is especially key to ensure that all your work is hung professionally and that you have all the relevant marketing materials (i.e. business cards, postcards, catalogs) available to your potential clientele.
For Artexpo, I decided to exhibit Dreamland, my series from Worlds Collide, that merges the Aboriginal dotted dreamworld with the caves and rock formations of Cappadocia, Turkey. Over the four days, I met some interesting new people who engaged with the work including artists from around the world and Swedish gallery director Mickaella Himmelström-Jankowich of Svenska Konstgalleriet. This new connection has also opened up the potential for representation to show my work at Art Monaco this summer.