Ink and Orange Roses, 2003
paints the subject matter first and adds the background later. Lines are
of paramount importance - he paints the lines first, and the background
comes right at the end after he has painted the lines. Sometimes the background
may even partly erase some of the lines that have been painted first. Or
he may add shading that gives the impression of a celadon glaze. The thorns
on the stems are a dot of paint that is applied with a lift of the brush
which produces a sharp end or tail: this gives life to a painting.
Sometimes, he paints soft brushstrokes of colour first, then adds lines giving emphasis as can be seen in Ink and Orange Roses (2003) where he began with broad brush strokes, then applied the background, and finally added the black outlines. He likes strong things so he puts on the black outlines.
Generally, Earl Lu's rose paintings give the impression of wealth and abundance. The flowers are grand, the vases are for the most part exquisite antique Chinese ceramics. The flowers bloom in profusion, giving the distinct impression of wealth in the house. Born into a wealthy family, Earl Lu has always liked what is rich, extravagant and abundant. He says that, "My philosophy of life is 'in excess of the golden mean.' I think if you practise the golden mean, you live a dull life, you must go beyond."
respecting the golden mean or divine proportion, Earl Lu wants to go beyond
it. As a flower, the rose is already very pretty, and he wants to make it
attractive without being vulgar. He says, "We Chinese are very fussy
in trying not to be vulgar and the one word that we use is clarity or qing
which probably equates with purity, non-vulgar, refinement."
In relation to Earl Lu's approach to art, we can use the example of the painting entitled Beyond the Golden Mean (2004). Earl Lu challenges the "divine proportions" of nature by including lines that are not natural. He creates colours that do not exist in nature, and to give a feeling of strength to what is usually known as a very delicate flower, he uses gold colour in this painting. It is a case of the artist playing at being God, perfecting what is already thought of as "perfect".
Earl Lu's love of Chinese ceramics is plain to see in his rose paintings. The roses are often depicted in exquisite "Yuan" vases and sometimes in vases with ox-blood red, celadon or green glazes. Not all of the blue and white pots are necessarily Yuan Dynasty pots: sometimes Earl Lu just wants to create a new design that may never have been used in Chinese ceramics.
Earl Lu's roses are always depicted in full bloom. (In a similar vein, his preference for the models at life drawing sessions tend to be mature women in their 30s or 40s). The petals and leaves are similar in shape to Fu Bao Shi's style of portraiture: almond-shaped eyes, cherry lips and fluttering moth eyebrows. Sometimes, a white ceramic pot holding the roses may have "beauty spots" as in a lady's face.
Beyond the Golden Mean, 2004
Three Women Praying, 2000
|Apart from life drawing sessions, Earl Lu often sketches and draws figures in coffee shops and markets in Singapore and when travelling overseas. He is fascinated by awkward poses where people have feet half out of their shoe, or a foot placed on the stool in what he calls "the pose of royal ease". What is very important and very intelligent in his rendering of the figures is that he still draws the figures as if they are naked, then puts on their clothing afterwards. It is a very intelligent approach because it ensures the correct structure of the figure. This may have been the way that he created the painting Three Women Praying (2000) as we note that the rounded buttocks of the three women depicted in the painting add a lush sensuality to subject matter that could otherwise be rather dry and devout in nature.|
there is indeed a very strong physicality in his paintings of women, it
is important that we remember that Earl Lu feels very tender and protective
towards women due to the fact that they bear children, and their bodies
are designed for this function. He firmly believes that men have inherited
a particular admiration for women as a matter of evolutionary necessity.
Earl Lu's paintings of nudes celebrate the beauty of women in general, and
especially the woman as (potential) mother.
We should note also that less accomplished artists often paint the faces of women in an overly-pretty way. Earl Lu is not interested in painting chocolate-box beauties. His aim is to make a quick sketch, to give the spirit of a person, the essence of a woman, rather than a particular woman. And again we are reminded that Earl Lu believes that it is the connection between the senses and the emotions which produces art, and the greatest of the emotions is spirituality:
"There should always be a sense of spirituality in the face, of contentment, of not wanting anything from you, of finding complete fulfilment in her own life. The most beautiful stone carvings of apsaras are to be found at Angkor Wat. The apsara is a demi-god with a face that depicts contentment as if there is nothing else she wants in the world."
For example, look at the expression on the face of the woman in the painting entitled Nude 04 (2000). It is precisely in this way that Earl Lu's paintings of women achieve a wonderful blend of sensuality and spirituality.
Nude 04, 2000
Hills Like Sugar Loaves, 2003
many of his landscapes do include mountains, trees and water, and the general
shapes come from nature, Earl Lu invents his own colouring. As opposed to
Chinese classical paintings, Earl Lu uses bright colours which give a more
modern look. He sometimes may paint the sky black in the style of Vlaminck
as it has a more dramatic effect. He often paints clouds outlined simply
in red, in the style of Chen Wen Hsi because he finds them attractive. However,
Earl Lu later realised that "clouds are flat below and billowing on
He likes to use the wet on wet technique, which gives a furry outline, particularly apt for landscapes. His preference is for roundedness: the misty, mountain landscapes feature rounded peaks, which may be related to his preference for the shapes to be found in his life drawings and paintings of nudes which feature women's rounded bodies, rounded breasts, rounded toes. Sometimes, the rounded mountains may even look like nudes with their safe, comfortable, round shapes.
Spirit of Mountain, 2003
of Earl Lu's objectives is that paintings should have more soul. His landscape
paintings are the most obviously spiritual of all his paintings. In his
landscape paintings such as Spirit of Mountain (2003) or A Place
to Meditate (2003), the landscapes may appear to be Chinese, but I suspect
that the landscapes in Earl Lu's mind may be inspired by his year in India
when he was a teenager:
"I went to a boarding school deep in a pine forest and every time I walked to school I could see pine trees, some of them several hundred feet high and I told myself I understand now why India is so full of mystics. The country lends itself to contemplation." It is not important however, that the landscapes be identifiable by location. The landscapes are "landscapes in his mind", they are his version of reality.
HA Place to Meditate, 2003