|Yellow, Red and Green: Paintings By Li Jun Lai|
April 5-May 2, 2012
Li Jun Lai never experienced a New England spring until she traveled to Providence for college. Born in New Jersey, she moved with her family to Taiwan and lived there until she was eight when her parents returned to the United States to settle in California.
Spring was a revelation for the Brown University freshman. Lai remembers Taiwan as a dense, over-populated, gardenless city, the countryside hours away by car, spring non-existent. California had nature’s spectacular landscape, but a west coast spring lacked the quality of rebirth most New Englanders associate with winter’s thaw.
Lai was enthralled by the Providence spring. Trees budded out in tender shades of green, birds sang celebratory songs each morning and daffodil bulbs cautiously peeked their heads through the ground. The scent of the earth awakening filled Lai with a deep appreciation for nature’s creativity, and she decided then and there to follow her passion into the arts. “I just decided,” Lai recalls “I had to be an artist.”
California schools had given Lai a solid education in the arts. She had visited many museums as a child and had vivid memories of standing in front of specific paintings full of strong fields of color. “I’ve always really responded to color,” Lai says. “To me, there isn’t anything like looking at a painting, or anything like the colors you can get painting.”
Unfortunately for Lai, most art schools and art departments weren’t teaching painting technique anymore. And although she had classes in painting, photography and drawing, she set out to teach herself how to paint the way she wanted to paint. “After college, I spent a lot of time just looking at art,” Lai says. Then she set about looking for a place to paint. She rented a studio downtown, but the studio location above a massage parlor proved problematic and she ended up moving out.
Instead she painted when she could, where she could. In 2005, Lai and her husband found a home with a dedicated third floor studio. Finally Lai had a place to paint fulltime.
Slowly, with infinite care she set out to work. Out her windows, she had a bird’s eye view of the backyard garden and it became her subject. She drew and painted the garden in all its wild glory – ¬ a Paulownia tree, magnolias in bloom, branches askew and akimbo, weeds. Lai’s paintings are not mannered studies of cultivated gardens, but a celebration of the natural world. Her line and drawing, reminiscent of Asian scroll painting, tie the color fields together. Her use of color, sometimes hesitant, sometimes bold and assertive, has a searching quality that is both appealing and captivating.
Lai doesn’t show often. Instead she works in her third floor aerie, thinking and painting as she tries to decipher the mysteries of color.
The BankRI Galleries are curated by Paula Martiesian, a Providence-based artist and arts advocate.
Dates & Times
Dates: April 5-May 2, 2012
Monday through Friday 9am - 7p I Saturday 9am - 3pm I Sunday 12pm - 4pm
137 Pitman Street
Providence, RI 02903
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