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.