Under The Skin – Remnants

We all have remnants in our life; they can be things that are left behind by a special person. His or her influence makes us better and motivates us to pursue our dreams. What motivated me to create this series of paintings was the distinctiveness of the tattooing process and its ability to narrate the remnants my grandfather left me with fragments.

My grandfather was an extraordinary man with a rich history. He lived through the Chinese Civil War and sailed with the military to Taiwan.  When China and Taiwan were in a state of hostility politically, it prevented him from returning to his hometown, Anhui, in China. Therefore, he spent the latter half of his life in Taiwan and didn’t have the chance to revisit China for 40 years. He taught me the significance of being generous and compassionate to others without expecting anything in return. Last year, his sudden death left me in a great state of grief; this gave me the motivation to narrate his life through the portraits incorporating Chinese elements to display our ancestry.

I have lived in a few different countries since childhood, which allowed me to come in contact with several cultures and many of their characteristics. The one that affected me the most since adolescence was the tattooing culture. I believe that the process of ink being tattooed into the skin narrates and represents a person just as our heritage shapes our individualities. Each painting mimics the process of tattooing to embrace my relationship with my grandfather, and to express him in different characteristics, expressions and poses. They coincide with the different chapters of his life. At the same time, the portraits also represent myself, and the connection I have with my grandfather. This series of portraits highlights the story of my grandfather’s heritage, and I combined it with tattoo images that I created. All of the tattoo images correspond to my grandfather in a way, whether it’s the strong morals and justice of a dragon or his Chinese zodiac sign, the tiger.

I chose oil paint for the portraits to create layers of delicate textures and complexions of the skin. As for the background tattoo designs, I applied similar techniques of tattooing from personalized designing, tracing, stenciling, outlining, shading and coloring. Instinctively, I treated the portraits and panel surface just like human skin. This series of paintings conveys that what is under our skin truly represents who we are and what we are made of.