Wang: Pain of broken relationship inspires painting

Rantoul Press columnist

Since I came to town in the middle of the 1990s, the month of May has become a significant month for me for two main reasons — academically, it is the month of UI graduation with commencement speeches, awards ceremonies and parties.

Culturally, it is the Asian, Pacific Heritage Month with nationwide celebrations and events.

But what was unusual during last May was I saw at least five art exhibitions related to University of Illinois graduating art students at various venues such as the Krannert Art Museum, the Link Gallery, the University YMCA, the Indi Go Artist Co-Op Art Gallery and the Figure One Art Gallery in Champaign-Urbana.

I enjoyed seeing these highly academic and educational exhibitions but was particularly impressed by some pieces of the students’ art displayed in the exhibitions.
In my Art = Life column for this month, I am highlighting one of these pieces of art with my readers.

It is an oil painting by Marina Ross, and it is titled “Shooting a Kitten in the Face is Not Funny”

At the exhibition at the Figure One Art Gallery I asked the artist what the concept was behind the painting and how she created it

Below are her answers that she told me and emailed me later:

“It was a piece where I employed many new methods into my practice. The piece was inspired by a romantic relationship that I was in, knowing that it would soon end.

“In the beginning, I thought our relationship was meant to serve some sort of very important fated purpose.

“Toward the end, I realized that we had constructed the relationship and that perhaps it was not a part of our destiny. These ideas relating to fate, grand narrative and construction was what I was trying to depict.

“It was the first piece that I made where I abandoned the use of just one photographic reference for the entire painting. I knew that I wanted to depict multiple figures in one space, but I didn’t want it to look like a photograph. The reference photographs all looked very cinematic like they had a story to tell.

“By painting the piece and breaking up all the spaces, I tried to show a constructed situation rather than a narrative one. The process began by first combining several photographs into a collage and manipulating the images through Photoshop.

“I was interested in warping the perspective through this process of combining photographs, as well as warping the individual photographs themselves. These areas appear in the top of the painting where the right-hand side is an area of a corner of the room, dramatically juxtaposed next to a warped window.

“These areas, although painted from careful observation, are abstractly constructed together. I was inspired by the idea of ‘warped perspective,’ a technical decision that I made in order to inform content. The literal warped perspectives relate to the use of multiple styles or ‘perspectives’ of painting.

“In the same vein, I explored ideas of fantasy versus reality through the use of the graphically painted stars on the bed spread under the laying down figure.

"The idea of fantasy related to the idea of fate and grand narrative. The bedspread is at the foundation of the painting, holding almost everything up.

"The stars, a symbol of fantasy, were what initially even gave rise to the question of grand narrative versus construction. My ability and desire to fantasize was important for the ideas of construction to develop.

“I entertain the idea of chaos that may emerge in the piece. That chaos is created when the viewer begins to question what is real and what isn’t. That’s something that I’m interested in expressing through paint. When paint represents all those things — realism, abstraction, fantasy, perspective, warped perspective, it puts them all on the same level and gives all of them equal importance.”

After learning all the above about this painting I was happy to be able to purchase it and another figure painting by her classmate from the same group art exhibition.

My purchase of these paintings meant something to the artists, as Ross wrote to me, “I’m very excited to have a piece stay in Champaign-Urbana, where I had such an amazing education and experience.”

Dr. Ian Wang is the curator of the Spurlock Museum and may be contacted by e-mail:


Categories (2):Columns, Opinions


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