The Mountain Does Not Bow: Studio Visit with Christine Wu

by CaroPosted on

Christine Wu’s (covered here) art draws emotional tension from its soft, tonal palette and sketchy layers.  She guides the viewer’s eye with detailed points of interest and spots of colored light.  Fundamentally, warm light might imply comfort, cheerful emotions, while cool hues imply something more mysterious.  Wu intentionally manipulates the light and color of a scene to achieve a variety of effects.  Her next series of paintings is inspired by morning light. She will exhibit these with Kyle Stewart, Hannah Yata, and Melissa Haslam at Parlor Gallery, opening September 13th. We visited her new studio in Los Angeles for a preview.

HF: Morning light is a theme behind your next show. What is it about morning light that inspires you, versus bright daylight or dusk?

CW: With this body of work, I’m playing with the idea that morning light has the ability to dispel the things that go bump in the night. Throughout the history of mythology, mysticism, and folklore, sunlight has been known to lift curses and banish demons. I love the physical and metaphysical implications that things disappear based on how well you can see and understand them. In the paintings, I’m trying to convey something akin to a sigh of relief and a sense of control. Visually, the morning light allows for a very cool color pallete, which makes the flesh tones and figures feels almost detached and withdrawn, as if they were very much wrapped up in their own world.

HF: We were talking about your process and how part of that is capturing the movement through a scene. How is “movement” important to you specifically?

CW: When I think of movement, it is more of a mental one of growing as a person, rather than the physical doing. I am a firm believer in experiencing everything you can, good and bad, when you can, as a means to learn as much as possible to acquire a better understanding of the human condition. Unfortunately, we can never do everything, especially not all the time, so some movements will cancel out others and some doors close when you walk through others. My idea of movement is one of attempting to experience all, which creates a frantic flux that can sometimes manifest physically, like a manic, agitated tingling.

HF: How would you describe your new work’s aesthetic?

CW: Aesthetically, the work is multi-layered, reminiscent of double-exposure photography. The figures display a sort of uneasy flux, evoking nostalgia and ghosts.

With all of my pieces, I always try to find something from previous work that I can personally improve on. Whether that is from a technical standpoint, or a conceptual one. As far as technique goes, I am definitely aiming to explore my control of soft and hard edges with the paint itself, while pushing abstraction of the shapes without losing form. The concept behind the work is a variation of the ideas that appear throughout my paintings: the feeling of or search for transcendence.

HF: You look to your surroundings and emotions for inspiration. Can you share the inspiration behind “The Mountain Does Not Bow” (above)?

CW: I strive for a feel of an image more than the look of it. The overall look of a painting contributes to the atmosphere, but I aspire to have the impression of breath. With the piece “The Mountain Does Not Bow”, I wanted to establish the perception of vulnerability and strength. The feeling you get when you voice a firm decision, but are full of doubts inside.

HF: As an artist whose work moves between focused and impressionistic brush strokes, how do you know when a piece is finished?

CW: There is very little planning when I start painting. I honestly don’t know how any piece will end up looking, and the ones where I think I have a direction, tend to surprise me. When I am working, if I achieve the feel that I set out to make, then I consider a piece finished, regardless of whether or not there is a physically finished rendering.

Thank you, Christine.

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