On painting: “It forces you to ask questions and sometimes does not give you a clear answer. It exposes your insecurities and strengths through your creation. A painting created from the Soul can expose you more than standing naked in a gallery. Truth.” — Norm Yip
(Of Human Bondage and the Fetishism of Animal Balloons)
My painting ‘PLEASUREDOME’ is an abstract figurative painting that brings you into a world of fantasy and homo eroticism. The title ‘Pleasuredome’ is borrowed from the title soundtrack ‘Welcome to the Pleasuredome’ by Frankie goes to Hollywood, where ‘imagination’ is allowed to encapsulate the spirit of the individual.
RELAX, NO. 2
I decided to paint another painting similar to Relax, shortly after I finished the piece, using the same composition but only shifting and moving the parts around to look different than the original version. If Relax, No. 1 was tight, Relax, No. 2 was giving way to the ‘painterly feel of the brush. Hard lines were replaced by softer ones and the under layers revealed itself more.
RELAX, NO. 1
After the initial impulse to paint figures in an uncontrolled manner, as shown in my previous painting ‘Cornucopia in Victoria Park’, I felt a strong desire to pull away from the looser energy and to paint something ‘within the lines’. I felt a need for more control and less spontaneity in the execution of the artwork, and the resulting painting ‘Relax’ is what surfaced, where two outlines of nude male figure were juxtaposed one over another. I decided to use a colour palette that was more current and vibrant, yet still sophisticated and pleasant to the senses.
As a young closeted gay child growing up in the prairies of Saskatchewan, life was exceedingly difficult. I couldn’t wait to move into the big city of Toronto to begin my years of study. Homosexuality was a sin, and one would go to Hell, eternal Hell where the fiery pits would render your Soul into an endless oblivion of pain and suffering. I remember hearing a saying “If I die and go to Hell, there’s going to be a lot of gay men around”. This painting reminds me of that saying, where men in all their glory are parading around in the flesh.
THE PLEASURE FACTORY
When I was painting this artwork, I was under huge duress from life’s problems, and as you can tell, the artwork became highly dark, sexual and sinister. Blue-grey colours embody the canvas and the feeling is of despair. It reminds me of The Hermit card in a Tarot deck, but with many Souls awaiting their judgement call. Could this be Hell or Purgatory? I rather like the darkness of this painting though. Why? Because it reached down into me, and as I said to my friend. It’s killing me… these paintings are killing me. The title of the Pleasure Factory is perhaps somewhat sadistic, but when I finished the painting, it felt like an orgy of men at a rave party. It reflects perhaps my memory of such days when I partied hard Bangkok, the druggy atmosphere of sex and men in dark stench-dark places.
CORNUCOPIA IN VICTORIA PARK
Following the painting ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’, I decided to work on another piece integrating figurative elements into the painting, but with more fragmentation and layering. What resulted was a painting with more bodies and figures than initially intended, perhaps more from an unconsciously effort on my part. I determined that I did not want the male bodies to be very obvious, so that one would need to search for them, and that the layering would create movement and abstraction. I did not want things to be too obvious, leaving the observer with more questions and curiosity than answers.
GARDEN OF EARTHLY DELIGHTS | Much of my recent investigations into painting have been influenced by the idea of gesture, brushwork and ways of application onto the surface, while at the same time beginning to introduce figurative elements onto the canvas. I am interested in the additive elements and layering, while revealing some parts and blurring others. I found that nudes or the male figure/anatomy to be my primary focus. I am inspired by the abstract expressionist artists of De Kooning and also by the wonderful Cecily Brown. Someone mentioned it resembled Arshile Gorky’s work, which I was unfamiliar with. In this painting, I utilised a projector and images I collected over time to draw together the idea of my own ‘garden’ of youthful men in a fantasy setting.
UNTITLED (SELF-PORTRAIT) | The journey of this painting took nearly a month of indecision and searching. As a result, I destroyed one painting in the process after 3 white washes of one canvas; thereby starting over completely. One friend to whom I mentioned this to said that was very courageous. I thought so too, but only because I felt no guilt or anger from the fresh start. Process. No feelings of discontent or anger. Just let it be. The new canvas proved to be the right thing to do. I could feel the surface of the canvas again; and how it would inform me of it’s need to be felt. More….
ODE TO NEW YORK SERIES | These painting surfaced shortly after my trip back from New York City, a place I had not visited in over 15 years. The city left me energised and excited to return back back to my own studio and canvas, to explore and reveal to me, territories of painting and investigation that I had previously missed. The multitude of galleries I visited were plenty, yet I seemingly extracted valuable components from the visit. As of this writing, I have posted only 2 paintings here, OTNY 1 and 2. I am sure there are more forthcoming. (14 Oct 2016)