Clarence Chun

Kane‘ohe, O‘ahu; b. Texas
Media: Painting

Jake Berthot was my professor at Yale and the School of Visual Arts. I was making extremely bad, busy paintings that were terribly hard to look at. When he muttered to me, with a sly wink, “Your paintings are about speed, but you have to slow it down in order to show it,” something clicked inside my head. 

The relationship of speed and time have always fascinated me. I begin initially with the format. The varying of speeds is determined by a chosen format:

square = slowest
rectangle = average
elongated rectangle = fastest

The long, thin canvas facilitates the idea of its fastest speed. For the first layer, I paint multiple stripes. This long, thin stripe image indicates this is the fastest that this painting can visually go, like the images you see while looking out the window of a moving car or subway train. As I add other sources of imagery to the work, I am gradually slowing the painting down, allowing the viewer to visually catch up.

The application of paint comes in three stages—the wash, the masking, and the micro. The wash is the initial thin layer of multiple stripes, applied free hand. This layer represents an underpainting with randomly chosen colors—usually leftover mixed paints that I don’t want to waste. 

The second stage is the masking, the use of tape of varying widths, one-sixteenth to three-quarters of an inch. I don’t normally trust the edges of most manufacturers’ tapes, so I usually cut my own clean edge with an X-acto knife. Also, most manufacturers don’t make very thin tapes. By cutting my own edge, I can cut any width I need. The thin tape allows me to make a clean hard edge, lines and curves. 

The third stage is the micro, the small detail-oriented painting of randomly chosen images from multiple sources. The images are almost always painted in parts, never whole. This enables the viewer to recognize certain parts of the painting and question others.  Also the small details of the work makes viewer move back and forth while looking at the painting.  Like trying to catch a fleeting image.

I am interested in creating paintings that bring together a wide multiplicity of sources into varying speeds and motions. My paintings bear witness to a personal moment in time and are memories of personal events. My paintings and drawings feed off of video games, comic books, the history of abstraction, architecture, Chinese landscapes, manga comics, anime and other sources. The medley of sources is orchestrated to create or reconstruct a personal environment within the painting to make a new kind of sense. An environment in which the beautiful and the absurd, the sacred and the mundane cooperate.

Since moving to O‘ahu, the ocean has been an essential part of my work. While swimming in the ocean, everything is in flux so my visual perception of my surroundings constantly changes. I love the fact that even the horizon line moves up, down, and tilts.   It is these types of visual experiences, whether riding in a subway in New York, driving a car in Texas, or swimming the ocean in Hawai‘i, that I try to replicate in my work. 

Learn more about Clarence's process and project in his blog post.

Recipient of the Friends of Tim Choy Purchase Award