by Lisa Gwen Baldacchino

The visionary artist LU SHENZEH, know by most as Jason Lu, excels in all he create sketches, to larger-than-life-size installations, from classically depicted sculptures and portraits to abstractionÖÖÖ
Lisa Gwen Baldacchino explores the mind of this master-in-the-making through his plentiful and evocative work of art

Art produced in the late 20th and the early 21st century is generally, and quite simply, labeled as Post-Modern. Yet I tend to find this term too generic and all-engulfing. When it comes to modern art, ìlabelsî and ìtitlesî can be regarded as somewhat obsolete when considering that a single work of art usually betrays a number of influences and can be compared to various schools and artistic movements. Amidst this ambience of modernity, lie the ìdisciplinesî of Realism and Naturalism ñ genres which I feel will always have a ìmarketî and a strong following because of their truth of representation. It is under his last umbrella that we find Chinese-American artist Jason Lu.

I havenít known Jason for too long, yet before I met him, I can say that his reputation as a painter, more than as an artist, had rather preceded him. Not having had the patience to await the next exhibition opening in order to physically view his work, I did the most logical thing and googled him ñ and hey presto, many of his works were just a click away. The images I saw did not do the originals any justice whatsoever ñ as clichÈd as that may sound. Thus, when I finally when to the opening of his solo exhibition, ìSearchingî at Le Meridien (St Julianís) last October, I was literally blown away! Before me stood these fairly large panels bearing nude and clothed figures, as well as some pretty stunning portraits.

What instantly crossed my mind was that his technical and academic virtuosity seemed distinctly Italianate ñ little did I know that Jason had spent a good three years training at a noteworthy art academy in Florence. In fact, it is now quite clear that Jason combines a very particular array of influences, disciplines and teachings in his art-works. This emerges most especially in his rather extensive palette. He does not shy away from using bold and luminous colours even when depicting conventional subjects. His paintings contain quite a minimum amount of paint, hardly and impasto, and seem to be done so effortlessly. Moreover, they are concise, naturalistic and appear to betray the psychological state of the person depicted. Yet I am often also inclined to consider the probability that it is perhaps HIS own stat of mind penetrating through his sitterís stances; that is is a case of the artist identifying himself with the model, rather than it being the model exposing the ìbare and naked truthî to the artist.

Thus, Jason may be described as a painter of moods ñ not those of his sitter, but his own. Therefore his technique invariable shifts according to his state of mind and phase in life. His sitters also carry a degree of tension about them; again, whether this is the transferral of his own ìtensionî or whether he captures the inadequacy and psychological state of his models one cannot tell. Yet this element of uncertainty, or mystery if you like, is precisely what makes these works so appealing. One must not assume however, that Jason Lu is solely a figure or portrait-painter. He has recently rediscovered a love for landscape painting. This he tackles in a very fresh and painterly manner ñ wide long strides of colour, which give evidence of the artistís spontaneity and attempt at capturing that fleeting moment of light and atmosphere.

Interestingly, Jason Lu also works on a number of projects every year ñ ones containing a significant conceptual realization which would be the subject of some current preoccupation. I had the opportunity to help Jason set up his last installation project, which was entitled relationship : family, and which took place at the National Museum of Fine Arts in Valletta. The contemporary gallery at the Museum as completely transformed ñ from the dark and brooding room, to one flushed with warm and sensual colours. On entering the hall one was immediately captivated by the vibrancy of the red and yellow draped panels masking the walls ñ yet these served solely as a ìbackdropî (if I may call it so) to the hundred-plus hanging wooding panels on which Jason painted his family members together with those of his Belarusian wife, Zoya. The combination of colour on the walls together with the sturdy planks of hanging birch wood had a very calming, soothing effect. I hadnít been capable of associating Jason with installation art before I saw this concept take life and form, yet I couldnít help walk away from that room feeling anything less than impressed.

Projects and installation work is the direction towards which the art of Jason Lu seems to be veering:  the synthesis of concept, skill and passion. Jason is an artist who is open to change; he cannot and will not ìpredictî his artistic future. He is more than content with living with the uncertainty of ìtomorrowî ñ an uncertainty which will be unraveled as his discovers new and exciting modes of expression.

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