Friday, July 3, 2009

Featured Wood Artist: Po Shun LEONG - Part II


This is a two part interview and is continued from Part I.

What are you working on right now? What are the thoughts and inspirations behind the creation of this newest body of work?

In 2009, I began making sculptural objects, called “09”Series. Living beings, plants and animals inspires the objects.

Method to make the parts: Thin straight wood strips (think flat fettuccine) are individually glued tightly around ¼ “ to ½” diameter wood dowels. It takes from 15 to 30 strips to cover a single dowel. Some patience and a steady hand required.

Bloom, 2009.
Image courtesy of Po Shun Leong

Bloom, this sculptural object is about walking through the California desert when the flowers explode into bloom. Made of bleached maple with a band saw. Dimension is 9.75”H x 24”W x 7.5”D.

Hungry Dog, 2009
Image courtesy of Po Shun Leong

Every show should have an ugly black dog. It makes all the others look beautiful.

This piece was “Ebonized” maple made with a band saw. To “ebonize” wood, steel wool is soaked overnight in vinegar and sprayed onto the surface of the wood. This is a natural way to darken the wood. Dimension is 13”H x 12”W x 13”D, 2009

Tall, 2009
Image courtesy of Po Shun Leong

Imagine that this object had been unearthed from an ancient civilization. There was no reasonable explanation for its use. It is just a piece of wood whose sole purpose is to feed the imagination. This vertical sculpture is made of “ebonized” maple with a band saw. Dimension is 38”H x 12”W x 10”D.

Under The Sea, 2009
Image courtesy of Po Shun Leong

Bright forms sway on a coral reef. This sculptural form is made of painted maple with a band saw. Dimension is 13.5”H x 18.5”W x 14”D.

Blue Triangles, 2009.
Image courtesy of Po Shun Leong

My architectural training was key to the development of this recent sculptural work. In 2009 I devised a system of construction to create Blue Triangles. It is about the visual movement of the components, the electric color and the negative space it occupies.

Blue Triangles is made of painted maple with a band saw. Dimension is 17.5”H x 18”W x 11”D.

Wood back to Trees, 2009
Image courtesy of Po Shun Leong

Wood back to Trees is about a transformation back to growing forms. This piece is made of bleached maple with a band saw, dimension 20”H x 21.5”W x 12”D, 2009.

Could you tell us the story behind making "Dragon" for your grandson?

Dragon, 2009
Image courtesy of Po Shun Leong

"Dragon" is specially made for my grandson's blue room. Chinese dragons are good luck. Only the emperor could depict the dragon with five toes on the legs. Normal dragons have four toes but ours has just one toe, perhaps to indicate our status as people who work with their hands.

My grandson at one and a half loves to imitate the expressions of Percy and Gordon, the trains that have faces. Now he can try to copy the dragon's face.

This "Dragon" is 17.5" long.

What is the specific message you strive to convey to viewers?

The viewers are free to interpret their meaning(s). Perhaps the title can set the direction.

What is the most interesting comment (on your work) you have heard from a viewer?

The most interesting comment is a silent one that comes with a Mona Liza smile.

In my experience, people who talk too much about the work do not buy.

The most tedious comment is " How long did it take? I thought it took years." Said with a painful expression.

Try to make a living from that if it took years.

How long does it take to complete one sculpture?

You see. Even the nicest people ask the same question.

Please explain a bit about your creative process. How does it all start, what techniques and materials you used to create your wood sculpture?

People often like to see an image of the artist sketching an idea on the back of an envelope or on a larger wall. So I have a photo of myself drawing wildly. But this is theatrical and a set-up. Rarely do I draw to work out ideas.

Drawing. Image courtesy of Po Shun Leong.

Most of my designs are created spontaneously from an idea spark and by playing around with material, forms and the help of woodworking machines.

Adjustments or drastic design changes made on the spot seem to work well for me rather than adhering to rigid preconceived plans.

Po Shun in his studio. Image courtesy of Po Shun Leong

My method is generally one of a constructivist.

I make many shapes and components like a Lego set. It is like preparing a Chinese meal. The main work is in the preparation of the ingredients. The cooking is fast and spontaneous.

Naum Gabo, the sculptor and one of the fathers on early 20th. Century Constructivism encouraged me as a high school student in England. His influence was very important to the development of Modernism.

Po Shun at the bandsaw. Image courtesy of Po Shun Leong

I use wood because it is so forgiving and select the material only for color and texture. Mistakes can be transformed into an advantage, (which is the way to learn). This is not “fine” woodworking with beautiful dovetail joints and perfect finishing. I hate sanding and prefer tactile textures.

Po Shun's hammer. Image courtesy of Po Shun Leong

In my studio I do not use hand tools except the hammer to deconstruct the unloved ones.

Visit Cichon Fine Art to see a panorama view of my studio.

How have you handled the business side of being an artist?

In order to legally immigrate to the USA I had to set up a corporation that put me in a good position to learn and fulfill the obligations of running a business organization including a benefit pension plan.

I am very grateful for the benefits gained for the professional help from the lawyers and accountant. Also my wife has had a keen eye on the numbers.

Are you planning any exhibitions of your work in the near future?

2009 shows:

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Progressing ahead.

Would you provide links to recent articles and reviews about your wood art?

There are books but I do not know about the reviews. There are articles on Google/Po Shun Leong pages.

Do you have website(s) for interested readers to learn more about your work? Would you like to share your contact info with our readers?

Do you offer any art classes? Are you available for commissioned works?

I do not offer any classes. I am available for commissioned works.

Representing gallery if any?

I am currently represented by Primavera Gallery, Ojai, California and del Mano Gallery, Los Angeles.

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?

My advice is like a moving target, always changing, but the following is a constant. You are never too old to play around with wood and should not be afraid to experiment. The value of the events along the way rather than that unreachable destination can open us to new ideas.