This vertical painting on panel depicts a peaceful landscape scene in shades of pale pink, light yellow, emerald green and soft blue with richer jewel tones including burgundy, deep orange and dark blue along the lower part of the composition. A tall woman seated at a table in front of a mirror holds a swaddled infant in her arms with two small children beside her. Tiny blue shapes in the weeping tree branches overhead appear at first glance to be small birds but upon closer inspection, are actually tiny swaddled infants called guaguas, a native Quichua word from South America, a universal and metaphorically rich symbol that runs throughout Cecile Chong's work. The lines in the painting, the outlines of the figures and the sinewy branches and leaves of the tree overhead, are delicately incised with glimmering gold leaf. Signed and titled by artist on the verso.
A multimedia artist working in painting, sculpture and installation, Cecile Chong focuses on cultural assimilation and the development of individual identity. Chong uses encaustic, a medium dating to from the 5th century, to create cross-cultural contemporary narratives. By juxtaposing appropriated images from sources including vintage children's books or found objects such as circuit board parts, her work refers to interculturalism and transculturation. Born in South America to Chinese parents, Chong learned about her own cultural heritage as an outsider and the entanglement of culture, history and interpretation are themes that are of special interest to her.
Encaustic painting, also known as hot wax painting, involves using heated beeswax to which colored pigments are added. The word comes originally from the Greek word “enkaustikis” meaning to “burn in” and the process dates to the 5th century. The liquid or paste is applied to a surface—usually prepared wood. Metal tools and special brushes can be used to shape the paint before it cools, or heated metal tools can be used to manipulate the wax once it has cooled onto the surface. Because wax is used as the pigment binder, encaustics can be sculpted as well as painted. Other materials can be encased or collaged into the surface, or layered, using the encaustic medium and heat to fuse them to the surface.
Acquired directly from the artist
Cecile Chong, January - February 2019, Kenise Barnes Fine Art, Larchmont, NY