In The Realm of the Spirit: the Work of Victoria Yau
D. F. Colman
[Editor’s Note:]Mr. D. F. Colman is an art reviewer and writer working in Manhattan, New York, N.Y.
Occasionally you will run into that rare artist who both captivates the mind and heart with his or her work. That artist is surely Victoria Yau. In all of her artistic endeavors what is made crystal-clear is that this artist is producing art which, while drawn out of private experience, reaches out in universal terms to touch every-one on different levels. Perhaps the most impressive quality that emerges out of each work is its lyrical drive which forms a visual choreography of parts related to wholes as well as voids as well as of subtle, nuanced coloristic tonalities connected in vitalistic ways to compositional shapes. The compelling drama of energized suspension pervades all of Victoria Yau’s artistic work.
Whether it is in the form of collage, watercolors, drawings or prints this measured sense of anticipation seems to arise spontaneously and naturally out of working process. This working style, so geared to the flows and ebbs of creative energies has been honed over time in order to exploit certain factors and conditions. Yau’s methodology favors the random, the elusive and chance occurrence working hand-in-hand with conscious deliberation.
Much of the artist’s process-oriented work has a constructed look but it is a construction that seems tentative, filled with contingency. This process gracefully brings home the point that the universe, while seemingly stilled is yet unpredictable at its core, ready to change and alter its state of being from one moment to the next. In effect, the artist is deeply immersed in delineating for us, the viewers, what she perceives as an elemental condition of life, which finds its equilibrium through an interior force of counter-harmonies. The delicate compositional balance that pervades each piece suggests, then, an momentary state of quiet and stillness within flux. This suggestion of a temporary surcease from the strains of life while poetically filled with intimations of voids and silenced energies allows the artist, nevertheless, to communicate a flurry of tensions and of struggle in her work. What seems quite evident in the artist’s efforts is her encapsulation of principal Taoist tenets of seeing into the nature of things through the nurturing of a sustained condition of "wu-wei"or non-action.
This state, so difficult for non-Westerners to apprehend, is one that allows for a release from intentions or desires, an unshakeable and powerful non-resistance through which we can flow with primordial universal energies. Following Taoist ideas Yau’s work combines wu-wei with a notion of harmonious expansion or a unity of coherence (k’ai ho). The result is a feeling of unity found within the diversities of the work and where particularity is identified with universality. The watercolor collage en-titled "A Fragile Jar," for example, is paradigmatic of Yau’s intentions to suggest a sense of wholeness, emanating from fragments. In this remarkable work the contours of an imaginary vessel seem to be held in suspension, a cosmic egg-container, broken, yet still eager and willing to accept the responsibility of bearing the liquid weight of the world within it. In another work, "Turning," a mixed colage, the artist visually conveys the sensation of hidden fire or suppressed vitality emerging out of a deeply interiorized, recessed space. Not surprisingly, the ontological qualities which are intimated in Yau’s work are alloyed, seamlessly, within the work’s overall poeticized sense of reserved, yet luminous joy. An overall tranquility pervades such work. In turn, this gives the viewer the sensation that the creative yin-yang process of the universe is embodied within the creative process of the poet-artist. A delicately balanced work such as the watercolor collage "In the Beginning", for example, with its bipartite composition offset by a small animated fragment of color which floats to the left of the work’s "midsection".
Lingering in its position it offers us a visual analogy of being psychically suspended between heaven and earth, hovering between oppositions and between differences, and thrust into what Martin Heidegger termed the "pure serenification" of the mystery of creation. In one passage, the philosopher Konrad Fiedler wrote: "The painter is not a person who sees in a more naturalistic, more poetic or more ecstatic mode than other people. He is rather a person who also sees further with the hand, there, where the eye gives out."
In looking closely at Yau’s work we are indeed swayed by the mysterious rightness of her coloration which animates her planes, as in "Chamber," "Rebirth," and "Life," each variously sized mixed media collages. But what gives us pause, what stops the eye and makes it marvel at the hand of Yau is her capacity to find that Archimedian point, through the imaginative capacity.
Victoria Yau’s art might profitably be considered a set of mirrors (imagination and reality) facing each other, which in-between themselves makes a habitable world out of their blending reflections. The artist speaks eloquently and passionately through her delicate nuances in her work of the self’s journeys undertaken to arrive at a condition of centeredness. Her synthesis of oppositions lies at the core of her revelatory artistic practice.