Classic Techniques Get a Fresh Update in the Paintings of Vincent Xeus and Quang Ho

East and East - Alternative Visions” pulls together the newest works from Vincent Xeus and Quang Ho, master painters from two generations who each utilize Old Master painting methods, as well as modern techniques, in the depiction of timeless figures and still lifes. Each artist’s work is on firm footing in the 21st century, while still retaining a glowing patina of tradition. 

The paintings of veteran Vietnamese artist Quang Ho focus on figurative subjects, while also incorporating some techniques of abstract expressionism. In Peachiness and Pomegranates (both 2014), the typical fruit from a realistic still life is instead rendered in daubs and streaks, colors built up to give the impression of light and space. Two series of works show more traditional painting methods, as realized in the straightforward portraits The Spaniard and Tarena (both 2014), but are pushed further and influenced by surrealism and religious iconography in the “Graviton” works (2014)—in which nude figures ascend into a black void, pulled by an invisible force. 

Vincent Xeus, a younger Chinese artist who left his homeland at 16 to study architecture at UC Berkeley, creates soft focus, ghostly oil paintings utilizing traditional techniques. He describes his work as being about “illusion, mystery, and introspection, [in which] subjects and streams of emotions engage and exchange, allowing viewers’ eyes to travel from one reality to another without boundaries.” Xeus’ training and practice in architecture is central to his carefully considered compositions, which have a distinct frontally structured symmetry. Nostalgia for centuries past shines through as he utilizes techniques from impressionism in works such as April Impression and Goldilocks, but is then rejected as he adopts a more experimental use of mark-making in A Day of Golden Age and Show Business (all 2014), in which colors and forms not found in the source material are overlaid to give an effect of spontaneity and rupture. 

Next to each other, it becomes clear how both artists featured in “East and East - Alternative Visions”  have mastered his medium, and pushed it further to enhance the original concept. The exhibition highlights the continued value of a dedication and education in traditional techniques, and the ways these forms can come to their full potential when combined with modern expression. 

—K. Sundberg

East and East - Alternative Visions” is on view at Gallery 1261, Denver, Jan. 12–Jan. 24, 2015. 

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