Mid-FEBRUARY to Mid-MARCH 2021
Chao's participation in the Sarasvati creative space Residency marks an approximate year of hibernation of the program due to the pandemic. It was truly wonderful to have the energy and work ethic of an artist such as Chao to embark the 2021 season. Chao was born and raised in China, but studied in the U.S. most recently with his MFA from LSU in Baton Rouge.
As an oil painter, he has numerous pieces in progress scattered about his workspace. He made immediate friends with the cohort in residence, Brent Rowley, as they organically found flow and work space as Chao noted was better than his MFA studio experience.
Chao's work is often plein-air of abandoned buildings as his connection with the loneliness and emptiness of the spaces. In his artist statement, he says "I like things that carry a sense of time, particularly old and abandoned buildings, also non- functional objects. I am drawn into the odor they produce, the odor of mysterious stories and memories belongs to strangers. The decayed textural layers and subtle colors left by time passing is intriguing to me. For me, they automatically create narrative possibilities, in a subtle way. They are still and immutable, the traces are the sediment of time and dialogue, and this beauty is not conventional, but another level of perfection.... As a foreigner, I felt strong alienation over this place, and these abandoned buildings and their specificities transferred this kind of isolation as an echo for me to “talk with”. What is more, as an international student, the feeling of separation is the most frequent emotion we have in our routine life. So I like the old houses that give me a sort of rooted sense. I am also thinking about the relationship between meaningless and meaningful through painting these."
In addition to the landscapes, Chao also created a few still life and a travel self-portrait. He arrived on the day before the epic winter storm that severely impacted Texas and gave us a white canvas and inaccessible roads for about a week. Preferring plein-air, Chao was able to get out on the road numerous times including a lovely landscape of a nearby cattle ranch. By the time of his departure, the cherry blossoms and fruit trees were just popping.
In an introduction to some of the off-the-beaten-path abandoned buildings, Chao and Brent enjoyed the few minutes of exploring (which is another blog post).
As a celebration of friendship, at the conclusion of Chao's residency we had a potluck dinner and campfire. We wish Chao all the best and hope he returns again one day on his journey. Some of the work created during the residency has already made it to his website portfolio that you can see here including the portrait that has been completed after his departure. Follow him at https://www.instagram.com/chao_ding_/