Please stop. Stop and take your time as if you were treating yourself with the gift of a moment you took out from a box, after untying a silk golden ribbon. Because only if you stop, in fact, you can actually see the pictures of Don Hong Oai. The beauty these images radiate is so perfect to be almost painful and, if you stop long enough to let them sit at the bottom of your soul, you’ll hear the sound of silent autumn leaves touching the water in a mirrored kiss. Don Hong Oai is not a painter in the traditional sense of the word; he paints with light and masks and emulsions in the secrecy of a dark room. Don Hong Oai was inspired by the work of Hong Kong’s master Chin San Long, who first ventured into the pictorialism genre in the 1940’s, a particular kind of photo-montage that, by combining people, animals and nature, creates ideal landscapes. The result is a multiple reality that escapes from reality: an Oriental Paradox. The 13 year-old Chin San Long learned the rudiments of photography from Li, his drawing teacher. The Chinese word Huà defines both the act of drawing and painting, and it’s almost impossible to separate the two, most of all in a culture where the sublime art of writing is accomplished by the mastering of complicated, ritual brushstrokes. Don Hong Oai lived in Vietnam during the war, then escaped by boat to California in the 1970’s, where he later established his studio. San Francisco and the American landscape didn’t influence his visual repertoire which traditionally remains Chinese, even if the synthesis and the graphic balance of some pictures attest a Japanese influence. The pictorialism may be described as a mental landscape that has no interest in realism. But the message is more than real: it speaks of a world where man and nature live in peace. It’s a balance of mutual respect that speaks to the whole world through the universal language of beauty. Don Hong Oai, who died in 2004, fully deserves a place among the greatest contemporary artists. Welcome to Extraordinart.


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