Beside You Jolene Lai Solo Exhibition at ThinkSpace Art Gallery

February 5, 2017

The ThinkSpace Gallery for me is beginning to develop a pattern of the style of artist they seek to shelter and showcase, and at the most basic is the artist who has become a master of technique. That is, the artist who is more than adept at painting a photorealistic artwork, where the abundant use of light is toyed with like a cat with a mouse. Perhaps this, above all intricacies in painting, is the most difficult to grasp and master and at the very least persevere in owning. Indisputably, what makes a Vermeer so astounding several centuries afterwards in depicting a quotidian taste of feudal European life is this magnificently inapprehensible craftsmanship of controlled lighting within the composition, to make the rendering of the reality as life-like as possible blurring the line of imitation. Thus, when the common man speaks of fine art, they most resolutely necessitate this quality which is the admixture of talent and investment in refining that talent toward something which he cannot possibly create from his own devices.
And yet how ungrateful we are to demand more! How besmirching it is to draw a gentle yawn when walking a mere footstep at a wonderful incubation and harnessing of human potential, into something for a lack of a better word is splendid! The most taxing aspect of fine artistry, then, is in first and foremost mastering what few humans care to master, and that is the playfulness of paint to give us beauty. The aforementioned control of light evokes within us this appreciation and gratitude of such artistry because it is so instantly inconceivable for the human eye to presuppose the possibility of such a painted reality – it is, in other words, stunning to behold. Secondly, however, and the most daunted path to plod upon as an artist, which is only tried by those that are content with overcoming themselves incessantly, is in taking this investment in artistic mastery and breaching the human intellect with an over pouring of human imagination; to take what can be rendered real but impregnating it with fantasy.


As I have said before in On the Necessity of Colors in the Fine Arts, the absence of religious constraint in concocting these images can be a blessing and a curse; yet fortunately for us, Ms. Jolene Lai is up to the challenge, to live above condescension and torment with her symbols and seek to give us an access to universal truth about the human condition.
She accomplishes this by first taking rather perfunctory domesticated settings but jarring us with phantasmic nightmarish images. Yet I must be abrupt and pause here – these nightmarish images are merely preconceived as such; predatory tentacle-beasts which are magnitudes in size more than a human child can no doubt give the impression of being fearful because of these elements (of humans being preyed upon); or images that are plain haunting which may invoke a suggestion of discomfort within the composition, but the commentary is much deeper. While superficially it can be interpreted that the exhibition as a whole is critiquing the domestic house life, it does so to arrive at a higher plane and deliver us truths about the human condition.
What I mean here is that there are several compositions which accomplish the objective of bringing forward sheer creativity, and doing so in a novel setting of domestication; this itself is virtuous; and that this creativity does not bog down on the eye, it does not taint us with a sense of poisonous acrimony toward childhood upbringings, is a very adroit accomplishment considering the potential of what it could easily have been in the stead of an artist with lesser vision. It merely presents us, the subjects, with these surreal images, and leaves it up to our judgment to decry the artist as condemning the state of affairs. I see most frequently in this show something far simpler than a critique of the Nuclear Family, and that is the struggle of growing into adulthood within the confines of the house; it is visualizing what one might imagine a bonsai tree feels as its own sense of being, were it self-aware, bounced against its stringent bonded limits and having to internalize environmental stresses, from at the very least engaging for the first time with the unpleasantness of unhappy parents seen in the artwork of Cacophony. In general, then, because so many of the artworks are more snapshots of dream work, it is trying to interpret this as anything but an inception of a magical reality with the intentional use of dangerous images to give the settings a tinge of seriousness; unicorns and dragons are too innocuous for the subject to take them seriously, which could easily lead to deriding the works as not worthy of a meditation.
The pinnacle piece in the show then is Interlude, which buttresses the entire argument put forth here that Ms. Lai is not adamantly concerned with being political or social, but universal – the loftiest aim of all great art. The context is contemporary, using modern technology, a television set and DVR recorder. The instance of humanity is then also ephemeral, as it will only be captured in this briefest of snippets of human record, until the next great thing brings to people together in intimacy. And yet, there is something underneath the surface; amidst the façade of personal intimacy is a strong sense of disconnect and unease about it. It is a telling truth that one can deceive oneself in believing one is feeling fulfilled by another warm body, when the two can be worlds apart. Such a meditation can be gleaned irrespective of time or place, or utter human biology, making it, given its scope and power of its message, sheerly elegant and masterful.


Jolene Lai | @enelojial #jolenelai #art #illustration #hallucination #hallucinationpage

A photo posted by Hallucination ( on


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