M aka MICHAEL CHOW
REMAINING ONESELF, ADJUSTING ALL THE TIME
BY DONATIEN GRAU
Some people think that to remain oneself is to stay the same all the time, without ever changing. That changing, adjusting, is a negation of one’s identity. What an illusion. M-aka Michael Chow’s art states exactly the opposite. In his life, he has participated in so many forms of creativity and brought them to another completion – from architecture, to food, to installation, to film, to poetry. And in his art, since taking up painting again after a fifty year break, he has consistently been pushing the boundaries of what he does: a number of questions arise in his art: filling the void, manifesting oneself, letting the space breathe, using different materials, both organic and inorganic, painterly and unpainterly, doing things quickly, focusing, diverting, creating forms, depicting a landscape. We could argue that all his work engages with those matters. Each painting draws from the previous painting, and goes somewhere else. The title for this work Blind Room, Global Warming for all Seasons, is enigmatic: why a Blind Room, since there is so much to see in each panel that builds these “four seasons”, a motif driven both from Chinese and Western traditions? Why “Global Warming for all Seasons”? How do these two parts of the title coincide? Every painting is part of nature, and features elements of its pictorial language, across history and traditions: the flow, the breaks, the format of the landscape, the fact that paint itself, eventually, is made of natural, mineral components. They also follow a rhythm, with highs and lows, high-pitched accents of color, and slower moves. The relation to music is self-evident, especially since the artist would like music to be played while the paintings are contemplated: depictions of the natural world meet the music of the seasons. As with music, anyone who enters this Blind Room is embraced by a sensorial experience, immersed in a space. One is to look closer, farther away, move, towards this painting, or that painting, note the correlations between the one and the other, see the similarities and the distances, the motifs that change and renew. The last season of one year is also the first of a new year. We are in this room as we would be in a year: time and space collide to create one full experience. The room is blind, as it is separated from the rest of the world: one does not see anything but what is in there: the rest of the world has been removed from any thought or any perception. Degas died blind, not because he did not see any light anymore, but because he saw too much light. One looks into a blind room, but sees more and better than anywhere else. Blindness is a concept, and reality is multiple: it is layered, sensorial, and the concept of “blindness” is an illusion. How blind are blind people? How can we sense things better, in fact, when blind? All other senses are even more alive: the four seasons may well equate the four senses. Blindness, as in Ancient Greece, are another way of seeing, better, more intensely: perhaps it is that the viewer is blinded from the rest of the world, and therefore can see better what is in the painting; that they can experience the art with all the other sense as well. Such is the premise of synaesthesia: the senses converse, converge, to create one sensation that is fuller than any other, for it carries within itself the matrices of human sensation. This is the synaesthetic unveiling of painting, the magic moment when it begins to have sound, smell, touch, taste. A layered painting, made from such diverse materials as this, can also be at unison with all elements from the world. Each panel has a subtitle: Spring, Rights of the Ocean (If the Sea die, We die), Summer, Volcanic Mountain, Autumn, Amazon is Burning, Winter, Atomic Cloud. All of them give a sense of urgency to the challenges we face today, naming them, invoking them, while all starting and ending in forms and materials. Fire, water, air, earth, are each present in this work, and in each of those moments: a painting, - that is: a human endeavor -, stemming from nature, returns into nature, into the elements that make the universe.