Twenty people and two cats in acrylics on 120 strips of wood

By Fiona Galea Debono

Project Relationship ñ Family is Chinese-American artist Jason Luís latest work, an installation exhibition that can be view at the National Museum of Fine Arts, in Valletta, between tomorrow and April 17.

The big-scale work marks a departure form Mr. Luís previous portrait paintings, which were photograph-like, and includes the faces of his and his wifeís families in acrylics on 120 strips of hard wood (birch) of varying heights. It incorporates 20 persons and two cats.

The work can be separated and a variety of illusions and perspectives created, depending on how the strips are moved around. ìIt is not just a static paining on the wall,î the artist explains.

As to the idea behind it: ìWhen I moved to Malta, I had never lived with someone, or shared my bed before, and I suddenly became aware of our different qualities,î he says of his Belarusian wife.

That was the inspiration.

In face, Mr Luís work always have a strong personal touch; they are always related to him and how he feels. ìIt is something I feel directly and is inspired by a little voice inside my head.î

As always, the idea would have been brewing in his mind for a whileÖ

A Chinese, born in Taiwan, who emigrated to the US, Mr Lu moved to Malta five years ago. Since then, his are have evolved form a more technical and visually pleasing challenge info the concept behind it ñ a more philosophical approach.

ìI am not that concerned about proportion now, and thereís an element of naivety in this work,î he admits.

îI got inspired as I went deeper and became more rooted to the land. Life is so simple here, I could purify my mind to be able to create. That is important to me ñ the fact that I can just go down by the sea,î he says, looking out his Marsascala workshop and comparing the life here with the speed of San Francisco and Taiwan.

It is the warmth of the locals, the sea and the sun that help him to feel free and not like a fish out of water.

But much as he loves life in Malta, Mr Lu knows he cannot survive on are alone here ñ especially not installation art ñ and is busy promoting himself overseas and exhibiting abroad. In fact, Project Relationship ñ Family is touring overseas after Malta.

Next in line is a 2.4-spuare-meter piece of installation art, portraying 20 emotions through 64 batons of wood, each layer portraying positive and negative facial expressions. The batons can be pushed in and out, and, in so doing, the expression becomes more negative on the side and more positive on another.

ìPure happiness, sadness, or anger only exist among children,î he says of the interactive work. Inspired by the Chinese philosophy of Yin and Yang, it is art that can not only be seen, but also felt.

So far, Mr Lu has created a model of the mesmerising cube because he does not have the budget for it and maintains that it is hard to find sponsorship for installation art, also because he is a foreigner.

Art has become such a big word nowadays, he comments, referring to collectors, who even buy a work that is destined to vanish in three months. ìItís not about the end result, but about being part of the project,î he explains, not expecting anyone, however, to want to buy a portrait of his wifeís grandmother!

ìNowadays, art is totally personal. There are no more standards; just lots of confusionÖ I do not believe in style ñ it is limiting.î