Kok Wan Lee’s expressions of joy
There has always been an emotional component in art, but beginning in the early 20th century, certain artists made it the dominant feature in their creative expressions.
Emotions, of course, are wide-ranging — from anger, fear and sadness to happiness and joy with all kinds of others in between.
But when we consider emotions in modernism, we often think of the Expressionists, beginning with German Expressionism, and by mid-20th century, the Abstract Expressionists in New York City.
Some of the artists who dominated this latter camp were Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, Willem Dekooning and Mark Rothko.
Suffice to say, none of these seem to have been particularly happy individuals. For some of these, anger seems to be the underlying emotion which was the trigger for their expressionism, in particular Pollock.
The current show at Gallery 117 features the paintings of Kok Wan Lee, a man whose approach to art is based on feelings.
Unlike the New York Abstract Expressionists, his abstracts are expressions of joy.
The subject for this show is Astwood Park. However, it’s far more than just Astwood Park, the artist captures the many and varied moods of the park: moonlight, darkness, rain and, of course, sunshine and the sea. Kok Wan Lee’s paintings are pure visual poetry.
Kok Wan Lee arrived in Bermuda 31 years ago as a chef and, for most of that time, his main aesthetic expression was in food preparation.
At the same time, however, he made art on the side and has been an active participant in the Bermuda art community.
I asked him about the two very different art forms of cooking and painting, and whether he thought creating a fine meal had any relationship to making a painting.
Not surprisingly, he confirmed that for him, the processes are somehow related.
Think of it this way: cooking combines various ingredients which hopefully become a harmonious, agreeable and tasteful creation.
Indeed, a meal should first look appealing and, as with a painting, colour is vital.
Of course, in the end, it must also taste good. Making a painting is really not all that different from the culinary creation and it has been noted that many visual artists are also highly creative and successful cooks.
We only have to look at the number of illustrated recipe books.
There are 36 paintings in this exhibition, all being fairly modest in size, which may be important to Bermudian collectors.
The typical Bermuda house usually is fairly limited in terms of wall space.
Kok Wan Lee’s paintings are also affordable. He uses a variety of techniques and media, such as pastel, charcoal, acrylic and watercolour or combinations of these various media. Almost half are mixed media.
The exhibition is one you would not want to miss. It continues through Friday, April 13 at 117 Front Street.
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