Artist Statement for
Public Art on the Second Floor of Columbia City Hall


By Lampo Leong, Ph.D.

 

One of the most pervasive and enduring motives for artistic creativity must surely be the desire to express a sense of the awe and majesty evoked by the overwhelming power of nature.  Philosophers like Kant and Burke have given to this experience the name 'Sublime', and many powerful works of art from every period and culture bear witness to its force.  My work also responds to this same spirit.  Through my painting, I hope to allow the viewer to share my reverence and wonder before nature's awesome majesty. 

In my current series of paintings, Contemplation • Forces, I have evolved a post-modern visual language that incorporates the wild cursive Chinese calligraphy with images from outer space or the microcosmic world in color schemes reminiscent of the symphonic effects achieved by Abstract Expressionism. Departing from its literal meaning and set against meditative hues or fiery colors, calligraphy is shattered and layered to generate depth and dynamic tension.  In my paintings, energies shift and explode, which might at times remind the viewer of elemental forces—seething magma, the formation of fossils, glaciations or solar flares.  At other times, they might seem metaphoric of invisible dramas—cosmic or spiritual crises, powerful emotions recollected in moments of serenity.  Above all, my work celebrates the dynamic energies that give birth to new life, new planets, and new stars. 

This group of three paintings for the second floor of the Columbia City Hall follows my current conceptual exploration in art with added elements that make them unique for the City of Columbia.

Geographically, Columbia is at the heart of America and it is a center for research and creativity in the Midwest.  Missouri is also a state with many beautiful caverns, which demonstrate the dynamic rock formation and vibrant energy preserved in this American heartland.  In addition, because of the rapid development in technologies and globalization, Columbia is becoming an ethnically and culturally diverse city.  I believe that artwork for the City Hall of Columbia must be sensitive to these factors and elements in our lives, reflect the above-mentioned qualities, and uniquely tie to the current time, space, culture, and technology.

Inspired by the caverns of Missouri, Convergence, a painting for the reception area, with subtle but recognizable English words of "Columbia, MO," soaring in the fiery red space, captivates particular energies and meaning for this central spot in the City Hall – in front of the offices of the Mayor, City Manager, and other important city departments.  The interplay of English letters and the cursive Chinese calligraphic strokes represents the integration of various cultures in Columbia in this globalized era.

Layers of Diversity and Digital Landscapes, in the lobby area, are again reminiscent of Missouri caverns and the social landscapes.  Superimposed with imageries from outer space, these works capture the indefinite time and space that we experience in the digital age.  The subtle aerial views of snowy cornfields on the back provides a sense of grounding and a geographical connection to Columbia.  Nevertheless, the fluidity of shifting perspectives and the synthesis of Eastern and Western elements remain the crucial compositional and conceptual strategies to communicate the rapid development of technologies and the swift transformation of knowledge that are happening in the world.

Incorporating the latest digital technologies, the materials chosen for the paintings are acrylic and mixed media on canvas with black floater frames.  The format of all three works is kept approximately to the ratio of 16:9, which reminds us of high-definition videos, movies, and computer and television monitors in this era, providing a contemporary appearance for the work while at the same time corresponding and integrating to the modern and contemporary design of the new City Hall building.