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Hongbo’s Abstraction: When the Picture is Over, Turn on the Light

By Richard Wearn, Professor of Art

California State University, Los Angeles


The artistic practice of Mr. Hongbo is a projection of a unique and expansive mental landscape. His paintings are energized by a meta-physics that is complex and yet his paintings possess an uncomplicated beauty. In his most recent body of work new attributes of this meta-physics have emerged. The tensions of meaning that form around symbols, and that extend also to realism have been cast off. What is lost for immediacy is in fact a gain for the expression of thought and sensation - an existential clarity, that is potentiated through our projective capacities.


Hongbo creates a world existent between thought and materiality. His paintings, without the construct of representation, resonate with humanness. They are affirmed by the residue of anthropomorphism contained within the handwritten characters. In witness to the work’s interplay between a formalized psychology (as expressed in the characters) and a truly morphogenic quality, we may find for ourselves Hongbo’s intellect and vision. Each brush mark is a part of the unifying whole of the painting, each mark is inherent to the coming to expression of that whole.

What we find in Hongbo’s vision is a world of sensations that are stimulated by light and space. They are illuminated and spiritualized. These are the elements of formal experience that have been pursued by abstract artists of the west for over a century. Congregating around the canon of essentialism, these artists valued a dialectical narrative and a reductive sensibility in order to find aesthetic truths. Hongbo’s assimilation into the cultural landscape of the United States has resulted in something of unexpected value and importance. Avoiding the mimetic or mechanical adoption of stylistic patterns, Hongbo responded to his cultural reality by a gradual stripping away of the semiotic structures in his work. And in this moving away from realism, he has painted towards an abstraction that holds the intuitive components of his traditional culture, not through sign, but through the purity of mark making.

Hongbo’s work is an intuitive illumination of the energized spaces of cultural transgression and collision. It is a new abstract formulation that is intimate and yet inclusive of us all. The works are reflections of a new metaphysics, of the immanence of humanness in a world where location, time and space are falling away as determining factors of being.


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