My grandfather, who was a calligrapher, taught me to paint as a child. I watched him paint, and he used chalk on a blackboard to show me how to make the gestures that would create the lines. Working with the chalk, I began with trees … always from the ground upward, from the center outward, along the lines of growth. The trunk and the main branches first, then the secondary ones, and finally the leaves.

When he saw that I used chalk with ease, he showed me how to handle the brush and ink. I remember the moment he taught me how to paint birds. I watched him draw the branch of the tree and then the bird perching on it. Excited, I took my brush and, following his model, started to paint the bird. He smiled and asked me, "Do you think it is possible … what you've just done?" I was very proud of my drawing and didn't understand. He continued, "You've just painted a bird that's perched on nothing." In my impatience, I had neglected to draw the branch … something I already knew how to do so well.


At the age of 10, after my grandfather's death, I felt it was necessary to learn how to draw and paint in the Western tradition. An important part of my effort included a systematic study of Western painting. When I would encounter a formal problem that stood in the way of what I was working on … for example, how to paint the contours of a light object on a dark background … I would go to the museums to see how it had been resolved by others.

From time to time, there were incursions into contemporary painting. My background in calligraphy was never far away, but my attempts at abstraction were quickly exhausted. A large part of my figurative work at this time consisted of portraits. How to seize reality. It was really the desire to recreate the person that motivated me.

In 1984 and 1985, the backgrounds of these very realistic portraits became more simplified and abstract. When I suddenly realized that the subject was blocking me, I moved away from realism and used collage to explore abstraction. Gradually I returned to painting, developing themes from the collages. These works, during the period from 1984 to 1987, were on unstretched canvas and were structured by imprints in the paint itself. They explored the spatial ambiguity between depth and the two-dimensional surface.

My work evolved to dealing only with color and light, where the space of the painting referred to landscape and nature. Drawing had disappeared from these canvases. All that was left was the vibration of color. In the period from 1990 to 1992, my paintings often were practically monochrome. Beginning in 1992, I felt the need to draw again, and lines reappeared from these backgrounds.


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