Updated: Nov 7, 2021
It was a physically demanding project especially for a physically challenged fine artist like myself but I enjoyed it. It took time to finish it: more than two years of intermittent work.
"Underworld-scape" was inspired on images of Antoni Gaudi's decorations of "La Sagrada Familia" at Barcelona, Spain. A few years after completing this big drawing, I had the chance to visit the church while residing in Hong Kong in 2012. Gaudi was a major exponent of the Catalan Modernisme (Art Nouveau), which style and sculptural nature I associate to an earthly and physical manifestation of a fantastic world of abundance.
The drawing does not depict the building itself, but it aims at invoking a sense of mystery and awe of a world beneath the world to the viewer. Its large size is part of invoking that sense of awe with its monumental quality. At the same time, Gaudi catches our attention to the structure of the church with its abundance of tactile details. These details are not random, they present the abundance of patterns of the natural world, most of them we normally do not notice, as we tend to ignore (and despise) the "wiggly world" (as Alan Watts put it). This drawing in small size would not have had the same effect.
In my view, this church is a communion of the structure, of which he had an intimate understanding, the sculptural modelling of it, and the details associated to the narrative and purpose of the building itself. Gaudi gave a sense of mystery to this building, the same way religions provide a sense of awe to the mysteries of the Universe.
The underworld concept came to me after watching the large drawings and paintings of Boston painter Hyman Bloom (1913-2009).
It was done on Canson paper using willow and compressed charcoal, and charcoal and carbon pencils. The picture below shows an instance during the process in my tiny studio at the time.
Up until today, this drawing has never been shown in any public space.
03 November 2021