The wilderness of the mighty Caucasus mountains (Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan) – a beautiful, wondrous corner of the world where the generosity flows as freely as the wine, friends simultaneously burst into polyphonic song when seeing off loved ones at the airport and where my now-husband and I also realised we really could be together. The Caucasus is a spirit, not just a mountain range. My tribute to one of our favourite, best-loved parts of the world ~
LITTLE FLOATING ISLAND
A little floating island suspended by a magic flying carpet, which is itself unravelling (simultaneously being the roots of the island), so the floating status of the island is rendered precarious, since it is slowly sinking. A kind of limbo. This was really magical to paint and it just came to me, one morning, and I completed it in two days. Sometimes art takes several years to complete and sometimes it comes like this, in a flash, clear as day, and all I have to do is just to let my hands do it ~
ISLE OF THE DEAD
Half real, half mirrored… a miniature painting of an island mirrored by its photocopy. The real world and the other world. The Isle of the Dead, the Isle of the Immortals. Legend has is that the Chinese Isle of the Immortals lies in the South China Sea. This one belongs to no country and is consequently floating. Roots dangling, always ~
All are welcome at my Universal Cinema for the universe and everyone in it. There are seats on floating islands scattered around as well as in the main amphitheatre and all anticipate the beginning of the movie. That Friday night movie night feeling before the film starts. Cinema is a wonderful way to bring people together. Da da da… da da da…da da DA da da da…. Universal Studios credits start rolling and the sun slowly rises behind the Earth. Everyone looks forward to the film ~
CANOPY OF STARS
Handmade pigments and paints, raised gold gilding, 24ct gold flecks, abalone shell on lacquer japanning
I once had a strange and beautiful dream that my husband and I were sleeping in a four-poster bed and its canopy – whoosh! – suddenly zoomed off by itself, leaving us exposed to the elements – and then I realised that we were slowly floating in space, the universe all around us, and our bed – now a kind of floating island- was being held gently among the stars ~
You walked into this piece in the show, as if walking into an inner temple: the inner gallery walls seem to contain you so it’s like a space set apart. Once inside, visitors always remarked on the peace in this painting and I’m sometimes surprised, as perhaps it’s only later that they only notice the frenzied city lights of Hong Kong at night in the centre!
In the foreground, a half-drowned, empty cinema. Slightly forlorn, but going down majestically. The glorious past, perhaps, making way for the future. So there is a kind of small sadness, even melancholy perhaps, in this work.
Whenever I paint Buddhas the painting always goes well. This Buddha is the world’s largest outdoor seated Buddha on my island, Lantau island, in Hong Kong. It’s also the subject of my first ever good photograph – I walked up the (endless, to me!) steps as an 8-year old and the Buddha appeared behind the mists, whereupon I quickly took a photo. My Buddha has the face of Sook Yee, my old Chinese painting master in Hong Kong. She passed away many years ago and in a way this is dedicated to her.
It was hung next to another Buddha painting (The Buddha of Emei Shan) on one side, and on the other side there was another cinema painting (Catch Me (them) If You Can – Разве за ними угонишься), which itself also has Soviet elements.
Like a rocket blasting into my life, the Soviet space dogs in the corner are, I realised much later, a bit like my husband (to whose era the space dogs belong) blazing into my life, disrupting it and messing it up forever… and I’m glad of it. The subjects in this painting are so intensely personal it’s actually refreshing to have something completely different as a ‘doodle’ in the corner. In the absence of a margin or frame, this work has the extra element directly within the main piece, causing chaos in art as in life. For me, it’s another world, entirely foreign and entirely fascinating. In a way, history is divided into 2 halves: pre-moon landing and post-moon landing. My husband grew up on the cusp of both. These two space dogs are Belka and Strelka (Белька и Стрелка – Little White and Little Arrow) – that were sent into space and came safely back to earth (sadly, the first dog, Laika, did not) – and were consequently immortalised in Soviet postage stamps, posters and ephemera of the time.
More to come on Soviet posters. They are from an era just before ours when the world waited, with bated breathe, to enter the universe for real ~