As an adopted child of Chinese-American expatriates living in Hong Kong, I have always been intrigued by how the Chinese culture explained the mysteries of the universe.
Just as American kids grew up with Cinderella and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Chinese children heard stories about Chang-Er and her Rabbit, and Kwan Yin the Goddess of Mercy. These tales go one step further to explain why there is only one sun in our universe, why we cannot gaze directly into its glare, how the carp/koi fish is transformed into a mighty dragon, how lightning is created, so on and so forth.
They incorporate mysticism with Buddhist and Taoist beliefs, history merges with mythology and vice versa, notwithstanding the disparity of time and place.
Amazingly, some of these stories have parallels in some western cultures, such as the Great Flood, as well as gods and goddesses that have their own petty quarrels and rivalries. All this forms the central theme of my work. And the more I research into the mythology and history of China, the more I find in common with other cultures of the world.
My medium is watercolor, acrylic and gouache on Japanese silk. The technique is the labor-intensive “gongbi” style of traditional Chinese brush painting, whereby Multiple light washes of color are applied in successive layers to build up the intensity of colors. It takes 6 to 8 weeks to complete a 30 inch by 20 inch painting, working on one painting at a time, 8 to 10 hours a day, 6 days a week. I incorporate a multitude of symbolism into the work. As I read a story, an image forms in my mind, and that is what I paint. And the emotions I feel are expressed through the colors I use.
Through my work, I hope to share the culture of a civilization over five thousand years old, as well as to give some insight into the motivations, aspirations and ethos of modern-day China. Many of my clients are second, third and fourth generation Chinese Americans searching for their forgotten heritage, but you don’t have to be Asian to appreciate a good story or to have fun finding out how Chang-Er and her Rabbit ended up in the moon.Wijsheden van Caroline Young