Alice Oh

My paintings start with one shape at a time. I develop a painting vocabulary by meticulously painting many layers of oval shapes. I then search for the delicate boundaries of the medium by introducing a subtle degree of shifts in transparency, opacity and brilliance of color and light. The sense of space in my paintings is derived from the multi-layered accumulation and composition of the oval shape. In my painting a cluster of these shapes may merge to generate a more complex form. I compose the forms to suggest a direction or movement through the space. I observe what has been painted and respond to the forms and movements I see evolving in the work-I let the painting speak. I believe that the development of the work generates an honest dialogue; even if the process of creation is exhausting and potentially unsatisfying I feel that it has been a worthwhile and important experience. Working with a series of paintings gives me the ability to persist with critical exchanges and a dialogue or relationship between the pieces. I initiate a new painting when I am prompted by excessive inquiries and challenges from the previous work.


I started to work on the "adaptation-equilibrium between tensions" series of paintings in the year 2000. My desire and inclination to work with a limited pallet came from a response to my previous work from (1992-1999). After working on a long series paintings done with a full color pallet, I felt the need to revisit the use of color (hue) in my work. I wanted to find the manner or way in which a color can prevail through feeling and temperament not just through optical perception of warm and cool, push and pull, and advance and recede.


Since my years following my graduate studies at Yale University, 1994, I have been fascinated with the coexistence of the microscopic and macroscopic worlds in nature. I find it captivating to observe an ordinary leaf of a Beech tree seen under a microscope. The experience is a magical one. Perhaps my previous 24 years of growing up in the dense urban cities around the world elevated my intense desire to work from the natural world. During my years of graduate studies, I made daily trips to nearby forest and mountains where I would hike and retrieve specimens-(i.e. pine cone, thistle and milkweed). I would then bring these specimens back to my studio. I made prints, drawings and paintings based on what I found wonderful or intriguing about them. I learned and discovered quite a bit about the properties of nature; order and chaos-finding order in chaos; Fibonacci sequence: recurrence relation, Fractal: Self-Similarity; D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson's views on Growth and Form; Herbert Spencer (1864), a principle biologist views in "survival of the fittest", and the most importantly Leonard da Vinci's drawing of nature studies. As an artist, I always admired Da Vinci's skill and knowledge as the artist, observer, scientist and inventor. After my studies at Yale I was offered a teaching position at Moore College of Art and Design, Philadelphia, PA located next to Academy of Natural Sciences. The academy is one of the oldest Natural Science institutions in the US; where I make a weekly visit after teaching my classes. At the academy, the exhibitions on Gregor Johann Mendel, "Planting the seeds of Genetics" and Charles Darwin, "Journey of the Beagle" have had a profound effect on my work.


In the past, artists like, Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot gracefully framed his views on nature with the dream like trees and pasture landscapes in France; in Saint-Remy, Vincent van Gogh was compelled to capture the swirling clouds, the stars ablaze and the bright crescent moon with The Starry Night; in the South of France, Giverny, Claude Monet, fastidiously studied the garden by working in the extensive series of Water Lilies.


The beautifully rendered drawings of Aurochs in the prehistoric cave in Lascaus, France confirm the belief that it is an innate human need or trait to pronounce or acclaim the beauty of nature through art.


I continue to strive for my paintings to enable me to investigate and explore the complex relationships of nature as well as its emotional and psychological impact. A painting should render a state of mind-emotion is in a constant state of flux; therefore the process of painting is fluid. It is important to find the space between the painting and myself; the metaphysical space where the daily critical discourse takes place. With my painting I continue to strive for equilibrium between tensions: action and abstaining; expand and contract; advance and retreat. A painting is reflection of life.



Alice Oh

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