Artist of the Month: Gloria Keh

Tell us an interesting story that occurred during art-making.

I make art daily, whether it is in my small art journal in the quiet of my study, or in the backyard of my home. And when I work on relatively large canvases, I use the studio premises of a well known international artist, Gregory Burns. One afternoon in 2015, when I was working on a loose canvas, sized 58 inches x 41 inches, I seemed to be rather ‘stuck’, as I was overly concentrating on one particular part of this work, wanting so much to keep that portion.

Being unsatisfied with other parts of the painting, I kept on making changes. Gregory, my mentor, noticed that I was struggling with the work, and asked which part of the paintings I liked the most. I pointed out the particular segment that I really loved, and had worked hard on,  thus I wanted to keep, whilst making lots of changes all over the painting in an attempt to satisfy myself that the changes would finally complement my ‘favourite’ segment.

Wisely, Gregory advised that I should get rid of what I liked the most, and stop changing everything around it. I found his advice hard to accept, and had to deliberate on his wise words. After much thought, I applied his wise words the next time I was in his studio, and realised how letting go of what I liked gave me freedom. From then on, the work went smoothly, and what resulted was the Dream Garden, that went on to gather a lot of praise, whilst rewarding me with much personal satisfaction. Indeed, this was one of my best lessons, thanks to Gregory, which I have carried over into my daily life.

home-studio-in-the-backyard

Home Studio in the Backyard

Share an experience that helped to shape your perspective as an artist.

This happened in the winter of 1997 in Melbourne. I was wandering around the city, and came across a small signage that said Mandala Symbolism, directing me to the venue. Something compelled me to venture into that venue, where a teacher, Georgina Fode, of the Theosophical Society, was offering free Mandala sessions over the lunch hour. I joined the group, and was very taken in by the energy of the class, and the content of the session. I kept on going back to the weekly sessions, and one day in September, made a mandala in very explosive colors. Different shades of reds, and orange, and yellow bursting out, in all directions. I remember Georgina telling us students to always date our mandalas. So I dated my vibrantly colored mandala September 11th, 1997.

With the passage of time, I became a keen practitioner of mandala art. Then, several years later, something terrible happened on September 11th in New York City, a day that changed our world forever. A day that will forever burn in my memory. Call it coincidence, but making that mandala in 1997, and pondering upon it again after that fateful 9/11 tragedy, somehow had a very profound effect on me. Slowly but surely, this experience changed the way I wanted to live the rest of my life: committing my time and energy, channelled through my art, for charity work, and towards the Greater Good.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

Mainly from the flora and fauna of Mother Nature. I particularly am fond of the lotus blossom, and every lotus is different to me. Lotuses have so much to teach us – the way it makes its way out of often murky and muddy waters, up towards sunlight. The way it opens its petals only in the presence of light, and closes up into a bud-like form, come dusk. The way water droplets adhere to those big lotus leaves, and yet the leaves stay dry.

lotuses-in-phuket-thailand

Lotuses in Phuket, Thailand

Water, be it in the form of sprouting fountains, rainfall, waterfalls, ocean waves, lakes and seas, also inspire me tremendously. That said, my early inspirations stem from the work and philosophy of my late father, Martin Fu, who was an oil painter. He did not leave me a penny, for the man was financially poor, but he left me his love for classical music and European opera. Needless to say, I find music uplifting and inspiring as it continues to influence my work.

Words of wisdom, or a favourite quote you live by?

An old Chinese proverb that cites: “ There are no mistakes. Only lessons.” I often tell students who are unhappy with their work, that paintings, especially mandalas, should not be judged. And that there is no ‘bad’, or ugly painting. That every painting we make as artists, has a reason, and a place in the process. Yes, we may make three or even four works that we tend to appraise, and conclude by labelling them ‘bad’, inferior…But I have found that those so called unacceptable paintings were necessary in the journey, because after making those unacceptable works, we so often arrive at a real beauty. A painting that gives the artist complete satisfaction.

painting-in-progress-at-studio-burns

Painting in Progress at Studio Burns

What are you currently reading, watching, listening to or looking at that inspires and fuels your love for art?

I read a lot, and daily, not just to stay inspired, but simply because I enjoy reading.

Always have an ongoing pile of books. Current list includes:
– The Afternoon Interviews with Marcel Duchamp by Calvin Tomkins
– Echoing Silence by Thomas Merton
– Frankenthaler (Works on Paper 1949 – 1984) by Karen Wilkin
– Collected poems by Adrienne Rich
– A new play ‘Chekhov in the House of Special Purpose’ by Rosemary Johns.
– The Cinema of Wong Kar Wai by Wong Kar Wai & John Powers.

I always listen to classical music and operas… Favourites include Mozart’s concerto for Oboe and Orchestra, ballet music by Tchaikovsky, piano concertos by Beethoven.

What are you trying to communicate with your art?

I am very concerned about world peace, and believe that peace begins with the individual, with each and every one of us. Peace is not just a description of the situation out there, but it is very much within all of us. Art helps to promote world peace, because in art, there are no racial barriers. Painting gives a sense of calm, and promotes inner harmony. And with this inner harmony, we can take this inner peace of ours into the marketplace. I hope through my art, I will be able to convey a message that there is still so much beauty all around us, and that we should live in awe and be thankful for our abundance. I do also hope that through my paintings, I will be able to raise money for charities, and help others in need.

What’s the best advice you can give on how to be more creative?

To immerse oneself in art, and color. To spend time with Mother Nature, and find fascination in its plethora of shapes and colors . To experiment with one’s art, and be always prepared to learn. To never discount the mistakes in the making of art. To follow one’s heart and intuition and to live in process. I also find it very helpful and useful to keep a daily art journal, making small artworks, working on sketches, ideas. Also to write regularly, keeping a writer’s journal. For even though the mind thinks in pictures, words play an important part in the creative process. And in writing, one’s words can so often provide a portal into colorful painted expressions.

momiji-autumn-in-kyoto-japan

Momiji Autumn in Kyoto, Japan

What is your dream project?

To have some of my abstract paintings blown up into huge prints that will form the backdrop on stage for a dance or orchestral performance. Imagine, a modern Swan Lake danced against a backdrop of one of my paintings from my Waves Series. Or a contemporary, modern dance staged in the same scenario. Or a symphony played filling the concert hall with beautiful music, and whilst the audience listens to the strains of the orchestra, their eyes can feast upon my abstract art.

What is coming up next in your artistic journey?

I hope to have an exhibition in Australia and would like to focus more on abstract art, working on a new series dedicated to Mother Nature.

 

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