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Mother / Mother

Roselina Hung, Madonna of the Lilies, 36x36 in, Oil & linen on wood panel, 2016

Mother – Part 1

Sandro Botticelli, Madonna and Child with Eight Angels, Tempera on panel, 135 cm diameter, c.1478

2016 was a quiet art year for me with lots going on in life. The first half of the year started out normally, working on different paintings and exploring new themes, but things changed in late spring. I found myself thinking a lot about motherhood, and what it meant as an artist to also be a mother. It’s something that I’ve been thinking a lot about these past few years. I asked myself how I could explore this in my art, where I’ve often looked at female roles. Going back to my interest in themes and images repeated throughout art history, I was drawn to representations of the Madonna. Identifying her as the Virgin Mary was dependent on her being a mother or else her virginity would be of no importance. So who was this woman that was depicted in countless paintings with her baby if the baby was taken out of the picture.

Roselina Hung, Madonna of the Lilies (work in progress)
Roselina Hung, Madonna of the Lilies (work in progress)

And so I began playing with images of the Madonna with child, deleting everything except her face and shroud. I rearranged the separate parts to create a new composition. I played with textures where her halo should be and colour gradients and lines replaced golden rays of light.

While I was working on this painting and my brain was obsessed with these ideas, I learned that I was pregnant. And then it all made sense why this overwhelming feeling to work on this painting seemed to take over my mind. But it also meant that while I was planning a series of these paintings, my time in the studio changed. I had to reacquaint myself with the basics of oil painting, as I used techniques that were reliant on solvents, which were now forbidden to use. And my paintings took longer, and I had much less energy. This was also when I was preparing to leave for Salzburg. So my Madonna painting was only finished upon my return, later in the fall, once I was feeling better and able to spend more hours in the studio again. I’ve only created the one from a planned series, but I hope to revisit this in the future.

Roselina Hung, Madonna of the Lilies, 36x36 in, Oil & linen on wood panel, 2016
Roselina Hung, Madonna of the Lilies, Oil & linen on wood panel, 36 x 36 in, 2016

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Mother – Part 2

Rosy at 6 Months (work in progress)
Rosy at 6 Months (work in progress)

In the past, I’ve tried to create one self-portrait annually. There’s something very cathartic about painting these self-portraits. They are challenging, as who else’s likeness am I most familiar with? With any feature a millimetre off, it can change the complete look of a face. But I also really enjoy creating self-portraits, as I feel like they are just for me without worrying about what the painting means, if someone would want to buy it, or where does it fit within my practice. Many times, these paintings have marked important events in my life, however small or large they may seem to the outside world. There is a significance there for me. Sometimes they are more about feelings I was having, or my psychological state during that year. And other times they mark actual events. But more often than not, they are a mix of all these things, and also a way for me to work out new ideas and themes for future works in the backgrounds or style that I’ve chosen for each specific painting.

With my growing belly, I realized that I did not have many photos of myself pregnant, and it was something that I wanted to remember. As a child, I remember looking at photos of my mom when she was pregnant with me and how bewildering it was to think that I was once inside her. And I hope to be able to share this painting with my child someday.

Roselina Hung, Rosy at 6 Months, Oil on wood panel, 6.5 x 12 in, 2016
Roselina Hung, Rosy at 6 Months, Oil on wood panel, 6.5 x 12 in, 2016

I knew I wanted to work with an odd sized wood panel, one that I could use to emphasize the feeling of constraint. As I was physically growing in size, I imagined the tight quarters of my belly, but I also felt like I was being physically, mentally and emotionally stretched to extremes that I had never known. As with all my paintings, I think a lot about composition and space within the frame of the painting. A lot can be conveyed through the intentional use of space.

I also wanted this painting to be a celebration, hence the brightly coloured background and exploding flowers for my spring baby. This was the first time that I worked on a self-portrait with the flat, graphic patterns of my other paintings.

Roselina Hung, Rosy at 6 Months (detail), Oil on wood panel, 6.5 x 12 in, 2016
Roselina Hung, Rosy at 6 Months (detail), Oil on wood panel, 6.5 x 12 in, 2016

I finished this painting just in time, before I take a few months off once my baby is born. So things may be a little quiet on the art front for a little while, but I’m hoping to get back into things by summer and be back in the studio and also working from home on some new projects. In the meantime, I will be exhibiting a couple of drawings from my pretty boys kill me series and a wallpaper installation in superyoung, a group exhibition curated by Zoë Chan at the Kamloops Art Gallery. The exhibition will run from April until July.

A Summer of Pastel Colours & Green Mountains

The view up to Festung Hohensalzburg, where my studio was located for 3 weeks in the Summer Academy
The view up to Festung Hohensalzburg, where my studio was located for 3 weeks in the Summer Academy

I’m back from my stay in Salzburg, Austria, where I was at the Summer Academy for three weeks. Each residency experience I’ve had has been unique, and this time abroad was no different. For all the positive things about being away in a new environment to create art, without the distractions of daily life at home, there are also things that I’ve found hard about doing residencies. Maybe it’s the lack of familiarity of daily life, and having to navigate a new city in such a short amount of time, where you are still a tourist but need to function and work day to day as well. There is also a sense of isolation that can be inherent in residencies.

The walls of the fortress
The walls of the Festung Hohensalzburg

Salzburg is a small city, but while I was there, it also coincided with the Salzburg Festival, one of the largest classical music festivals in the world, and a few days after my arrival, the city was teeming with tourists. The Summer Academy is also located in the Festung Hohensalzburg, one of the main tourist attractions that sits high above the city. Every morning I would have to cram into a packed funicular to go up the steep hill to my studio in the walls of the fortress.

The view from our studio
The view from our studio
My studio corner where I worked for 3 weeks
My studio corner at the Summer Academy

The site of the Summer Academy offered spectacular views of the city and its surrounding mountains, but it also was up on the top of a very steep hill that was in the middle of a large tourist attraction. And the summer tourist season was in full swing while I was there. I was struck by the sheer number of tourists in such a small city, of the bus loads of people going on The Sound of Music tours, women around walking in traditional dirndl dresses, and families being taken around in horse drawn carriages every ten minutes. It was slightly surreal.

Quick studies in oil pastel
Quick studies in oil pastel

My time in the studio was spent mainly working from life models – we had two models that worked with us for the entire day, for three weeks straight. When I first applied for the Summer Academy, I was unsure what the structure of the studio time was going to be. It was described as a course about life painting, but also sounded like a residency with free time to pursue your own projects. When I arrived, there was a mix of artists there, from complete beginners to professional artists, and while this was interesting in some respects, it was also frustrating in others. The model poses were often too short for me to paint from, as I had brought my oil paints with me, and many of the more inexperienced artists rushed through their paintings well under an hour and wanted to move onto the next pose.

Life drawing at the rock quarry
Life drawing at the rock quarry

So I spent the first week or so, working on quick sketches, to loosen up my hand and get back into drawing from the nude body. But this grew tiresome, as I did not want to continue this for the entire time I was there. I thought back to previous self-directed residencies I have been on and decided to treat this the same way, and to try to find something about where I was, in this new environment, that I could work from.

One of many places in Salzburg where The Sound of Music was filmed
One of many places in Salzburg where The Sound of Music was filmed

And that’s when I thought about actually being in Salzburg, and my experience of it, in the height of summer. The Sound of Music is not very popular with Austrians, but there were so many large tour groups of foreigners, including sing-along bus tours, that took people to see where they filmed the movie. And tourists dressed up in dirndl and lederhosen wandering the streets, mixing with locals dressed up in fancier versions out at the opera. It is a bit hard for me to imagine what the city is like without all the tourists, as I imagine it is much more tranquil and quiet, surrounded by the green mountains in all directions. The other thing I noticed about Salzburg, and many other cities in Europe, is the colour of the buildings. Unlike in North America, where you get houses and buildings in every colour, it seemed like a very restrained palette of pastel peaches, creams and yellows in Salzburg. And of course, the main reason I was in Austria was to be at the Summer Academy, working from the life models, and with the short time frames available for me to work from, I decided to focus solely on the arms of the model.

Salzburg I
Salzburg I
Salzburg II
Salzburg II

And so I created these oil paintings, drawing from the mountains I could see out in the distance, wrapped in the colours of Salzburg, where “the hills are alive”. I worked on primed linen that I had brought with me, and I intend on mounting them onto board now that I’m back in Vancouver. I haven’t decided on the background yet but I don’t think I will leave them white. A flat colour perhaps. The work is still unfinished. Working in oils can be limiting, as I’ve learned from past residencies, I need to leave enough time for the paint to dry so that I can take the work back with me without damaging the surface. And in the end, I felt good about the work that I created, and that it can lead to further explorations here in Vancouver.

My paintings on display at the Summer Academy's open studios
My paintings on display at the Summer Academy’s open studios

An Act or Instance of Wandering

Roselina Hung - The Field of Ruins (Pink), Oil and linen on canvas, 12x16 in, 2016.
Roselina Hung – The Field of Ruins (Pink), Oil and linen on canvas, 12 x 16 in, 2016.

I imagine this is probably the same in most cities: having to move artist studios every few years.

I’ve moved studios every couple of years, and each time it doesn’t get any easier. Sometimes I moved because a shared studio space wasn’t working out anymore, other times because the studio was going to get torn down for new developments. And each time there’s a certain amount of stress of trying to find a new fit, followed by the actual act of moving all of my art work and supplies.

The new studio search can feel like I have all my art belongings in my arms and I’m wandering the city to find it a new home. This past December I  was lucky to move to Gene Studios, which is part of an artist community in the Mount Pleasant area of Vancouver.

ROVE_may_map_all-2

Next Friday, I will be taking part in ROVE, an art walk through Mount Pleasant that takes visitors through 8 different art spaces open for one night to the public. From 6 to 10 pm, people can visit different galleries and artist studios.  Gene Studios houses many different studios, so come say hi while you check out all the different artists here.

ROVE_may_map_all-1

Spring Cleaning

Once again, I’m sitting here looking outside my window at a street full of magnolia blooms and a sunny blue sky. It’s already spring. The sun is out, and Vancouverites are already in their shorts and sandals. This quick turn of seasons was a good reminder to myself that I need to update my blog with all the goings on from the past few months. And it’s been a good busy time with different projects and a move!

Frank Stella at the Whitney

Late last fall, I made a quick trip to New York and was lucky enough to visit the new Whitney Museum and catch Frank Stella’s retrospective. I’ve only seen some of his paintings in group shows, but this was a retrospective of his work and I was awestruck by the scale of some of his sculptural works.

Frank Stella’s large sculptural works

Here was an artist that I never really gave too much thought to in relation to my own work, but at this show, it suddenly hit me that our paintings share visual and conceptual similarities. And while I liked seeing his paintings, it was the 3D works that really caught my imagination. It was just the creative boost I needed, and I rushed back into the studio to work out new ideas. Which was perfect timing, as I moved into a new studio in December. I am now in the Mount Pleasant area of East Vancouver working amongst a talented group of women artists including Sunshine Frere, Rebecca Chaperon, Biliana Velkova and Mira Song.

Bright & shiny new studio
Bright & shiny new studio

Meanwhile, over in Calgary, Mary Porter and my collaborative project, A Conversation, was getting its second showing of the year. Shown in a new format on two opposing monitors, A Conversation was displayed in TRUCK Gallery’s +15 Windows in December and January.

A Conversation, with Mary Porter, at TRUCK Gallery +15 Windows
A Conversation, with Mary Porter, at TRUCK Gallery +15 Windows
truck-setup1
Monitors in conversation

My limited edition screen print, The Drought, that was created for The New Gallery in Calgary also sold during their fundraiser. I have a limited number of prints available for sale, so if you are interested please contact me.

The Drought, Silkscreen on paper, 11×14 inches, Limited edition of 30, 2015
The Drought, Silkscreen on paper, 11×14 inches, Limited edition of 30, 2015

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I’ve been busy in the studio, quietly working away on new paintings. I thought it would be fun to show some work-in-progress shots alongside the final works. I often post photos of the painting process on Instagram but some of the rougher early stuff I like to keep to myself as a record of what I’ve done. I’ve mostly been in the studio working on new ideas, trying not to repeat myself in my painting and seeing where I can go with my art.

Little test studies in colour and textures
Little test studies in colour and textures
Close up of flowers in progress
Close up of flowers in progress in Beyond the Realm of Failure

Beyond the Realm of Failure was originally intended for a large scale mural in downtown Vancouver at the L’Occitane flagship store, but it didn’t work out and they ended up going a different route. I wrote about this on my blog a couple of years ago – you can read about it here.

My initial sketch for the mural project
My initial sketch for the mural project
Beyond the Realm of Failure, Oil & linen on wood panel, 48 x 36 inches, 2015
Beyond the Realm of Failure, Oil & linen on wood panel, 48 x 36 inches, 2015

I really liked my original sketch and idea and didn’t want to see it forgotten on my computer somewhere, so I reworked the image to incorporate more of my own ideas, textures and patterns. I also wanted to experiment with actual collage of shapes cut from linen. My paintings are often mistaken for collage, but it’s all hand painted.

Rhapsody, in the early stages
Rhapsody, in the early stages

Along with using different textures and materials, I’ve also been playing with looser inky areas of paint. I worked and re-worked this painting, on and off for about a year, and I finally reached the point where I believe it’s finished. I still feel a bit iffy about it sometimes. When I look at it for too long I feel like I can pick out problems with it. But then when I’ve put it away for a while and take it back out to look at it with refreshed eyes, I can also appreciate those same “problem” areas.

rhapsody
Rhapsody, Oil & ink on wood panel, 24 x 36 inches, 2016

February was also the start of the Chinese New Year. 2016 is the Year of the Monkey, which also happens to be my zodiac sign. I’ve been working on ideas around horoscopes and zodiacs for a while now, but no big project has come of this yet. This idea came to me suddenly one day and I had to draw it out. I feverishly finished it in two days, just before my self-imposed deadline of Chinese New Year.

From princess to monkey...
From princess to monkey…
Salome (Year of the Monkey), Coloured pencil on paper, 14 x 17 inches, 2016
Salome (Year of the Monkey), Coloured pencil on paper, 14 x 17 inches, 2016

And lastly, I just finished a new painting that I feel brings together many of my past ideas and is also evolving in a new direction. I’ll have to let it sit on the wall and breathe a little before I look at it again and think about where to go next.

The underpainting and early stages
The underpainting and early stages
Painting the gnarled hands was a challenge

I’ll be taking part in ROVE, an art walk through Mount Pleasant, and my studio will be open to the public the evening of May 27th. I’ll post more details in the upcoming weeks. I haven’t had an open studio for a few years, since I took part in the Eastside Culture Crawl. This will be a good opportunity to come see my work space and my new drawings and paintings, and I will also have prints for sale. I’ll post when I have more information on that soon. In the meantime, if you’d like to receive news and updates from me in your inbox, you can sign up for my mailing list.

The Nested Babushka, Oil on wood panel, 16 x 20 inches, 2016
The Nested Babushka, Oil on wood panel, 16 x 20 inches, 2016
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