Artist: Joseph Synn Kune Loh
Open (開) – Molecular Language Series
acrylic on canvas
20 x 24 inches
The three paintings are from the “Molecular Language” series, tilted The Wall, Abundance, Open respectively.
Creation is nothing into something, space into matter, matter into form. In art, the process is “Abstraction”. The fundamental materials are triangles, circles and squares, lines, dots, color and space. They combine to form “something.” I see abstract art as the product of something happening or emerging.
There are two kinds of language in our world – auditory language, first comes sound, and then meaning is assigned. Visual Language, first come the picture then the meaning. The three paintings were inspired by three Chinese characters: 墻 (wall), 丰(abundance, harvest), and 開 (open).
Joseph Synn Kune Loh – Biography
An artist’s career is a vision quest, answering to a calling, making his mark by creating series of works that becomes a treasure map of discovering beauty, mystery, human connections, spiritual awakenings. Going through the different phases of Joseph Synn Kune Loh’s art is like seeing a documentary of his creative life through entering a private collection unveiling its hidden treasures.
He began his journey by doing graduate study in psychology at Queen’s University in the 1970s. After a trip to Paris, inspired by what he saw in the museums and galleries, propelled by an awakening experience, he made a leap into the unknown, leaving Queen’s to study at the Ontario College of Art in Toronto. He called that period of his life as going from “searching in the dark” to “seeking the light,” which became the hallmark of his work.
Influenced by Morris Louis and Paul Jenkins, Loh’s first series had only five “monochromatic” paintings. The technique was pouring paint over unprimed canvas to capture a moment in time as a form or a shape.
Not satisfied by the accidental nature of the technique, becoming more skilled in controlling the medium, he began an exploration of a theme that was most common to young Chinese artists of his time – searching for a contemporary interpretation of classical Chinese landscape paintings.
He went to Cleveland, Ohio to see a touring exhibition of Chinese landscape art. There he saw the Northern Song Dynasty’s artist Fan Kuan’s Traveling through the Autumn Mountain. He was completely taken aback by its scope, vision and beauty. He told his friends, “I have seen the light.” What followed was the beginning of a life-long relationship of making contemporary landscape paintings through abstract expressionism. His signature was first creating texture on canvas, followed by pouring paint to reveal the shapes, finally using the brush to render images of mountains and rock formations; flowing elements became streams and water falls. This series of paintings is best captured by a poem he wrote.
where the mountain meets the sky.
and watch the sun rise.
Upon the clouds, angels keep watch,
crystalline thoughts of changing sights and sounds.
You enter my mountain temple,
invisible laughters catching fallen metals.
As I gaze upon your heart’s secret meadow,
the golden vision reappears.
Love is a rushing stream of life,
giving birth to the jade gardens in the rolling hills.
You can come to my house,
in the shadow of running water.
I’ll serve you tea in the cool shade.
We’ll share a tale of the distances we traveled.
Yonder lies a field of yellow flowers,
and a pond of the purest spring.
As we ponder our reflections,
crimson stars ascend on the far horizon.
Another day is drawing to a close,
the silence in our hearts know.
We are the beauty
that place the flowers on the hills.
Joseph Synn Kune Loh moved from Toronto to live in Vancouver in 1991. For the next
decade, he was on a vision quest to find out what spirituality is for him.
He travelled extensively in Mexico. He went to 22 pyramids and made seven
trips to a sacred site called The Luminarias. He spoke in international
conferences on recovering keys from Ancient China and along the way he was
invited to be a guest speaker for the Sivananda Yoga organization. His
paintings in this period were mostly about pyramids, galactic frequency and
Buddha forms. He also wrote what he called “poetic compositions,” combining
poetry with guitar music that he composed.
In 2010, he went back to painting a new series. He took up where he left off and made 40 abstract paintings using the seven criteria – space, color, shapes such as triangles, circles and shapes, lines and dots. Two more exhibitions followed. The theme was “molecular language,” decoding the Chinese written words into abstract art.
When asked about his future as an artist, he answered, “Make drawings on the theme of “interiors”. He has written a book of poetry, titled A journey to Camatkara. A second book, Ping Pong, Parkinson’s and the Art of Staying in the Game, will be published in the early part of 2018. He has two more writing projects on the go. He told his friends, “I am finally living my dream as an artist.”
Joseph Synn Kune Loh 2017
Joseph Synn Kune Loh – Artist Statement 2017
I took up drawings in the early 1980s. “Why?” friends asked him. He answered, “I am out of money but not out of hope.” He had given up his Niagara Street warehouse studio and channeled his energy to make a series of drawings he called Still Alive. He was under the influence of Mrs. Gadatsy’s drawings at the Gadatsy Gallery in Toronto. He found a new expression. He told friends his drawings were about elevating the mundane. Drawing is an inward journey, very different from paintings where every action is coming out from the inside and going out into the world. The Gadatsy Gallery closed in 1979. I had three drawing exhibitions in the 1980’s in Gallery Eighties. The three themes, Tennis Balls, Faceless Citizens, Still Alive, were all well received, especially the drawing titled Six Tennis Balls, where I copied the placement of a classical zen painting called Six Persimmons.
In the mid 1980s, I went back to make a series of paintings called Plato’s Caves based on the inquiry of “What is reality?” They were done in action painting fashion. The result was completely different from my abstract landscapes. Figures seemed to have risen from the subconscious seeking the light. Three paintings from this series were chosen to be in a show in Chicago. One was collected by the Leonard Bernstein Foundation from the American Conservatory of Music.
In the late 1980s, I went to teach art at the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute in Chong Qing, China. He paid a visit to a Buddhist Grotto called Da Ju (Dazu Rock Carvings) where I had a spiritual experience, a form of awakening to have a glimpse to what it meant – “All sentient beings have the potential to be awakened”. Over centuries, anonymous monk artists came to Da Ju (Dazu)to carve Buddha statues out of the rock formations. I began to see Buddha forms everywhere. After my return to Canada, I could not help himself from seeing Buddha forms in my landscapes. Coupled with another experience where I accidentally memorized the “Heart Sutra,” a Buddhist teaching, I began to make paintings with Buddha forms, and sometimes copying the Heart Sutra onto the paintings.
– Joseph Synn Kune Loh 2017