A note about my recent work
I first set foot in Tiananmen Square on a scorching summer day in June 2010. The heat was thick, trapped by miles of concrete. An innumerable mass of visitors from within China and abroad speckled the austere and impenetrable square. They attempted to orient themselves under the glare of sun and surveillance. Such an extreme contrast in scale between people and environment was disorienting and seemed impossible to reconcile.
The children stood out to me amongst the tourists, shuttled to this place by their caretakers. I imagined the multiple reasons for why they came: to pay homage to history, to acquire cultural capital, to document and remember through photograph and video. I wondered how the youngest of them, with little contextual knowledge, made sense of their experience.
In this hazy yet chaotic scene, my eyes were drawn toward a wandering toddler, no more than three years old, whose small figure was framed entirely by a sea of concrete. I realized that such a close perspective transformed a specific and symbolically loaded site such as Tiananmen Square into a de-contextualized and ambiguous surround. The interchangeability I discovered between the particular and the universal, individuality and anonymity, intrigued me. While we begin to formulate our sense of identity and relationship to place as young children, such processes of identification, location, and dislocation are not limited to childhood; they are lifelong.
The image of the toddler in Tiananmen Square embodied the questions I am interested in investigating through my artwork. It sparked my ongoing series of kid paintings, in which I attempt to capture both the naïveté of childhood and the solemnity of searching for identity and belonging in ever-changing environments. Counterpoint to these images is my series of landscapes, where I aim to construct views of specific locations that manifest as vaguely familiar but curiously vacant. They become mere backdrops without the action and meaning we ascribe to them through our lived experience.
In this current body of work, I contemplate the impact of migration and mobility on our contemporary sense of relationship and attachment to place, people, and ultimately ourselves. I think about the role of nostalgia in how we construct meaning and memories to make sense of where we have been and where we are going. I hope my paintings invite you to consider these ideas in conversation with your own experiences and sentiments.
May 12, 2012.