By Liu Yin
I know you very well. As an American you have visited China one month after 9-11. As a producer of the documentary “Artists of Beijing” you have explored the Chinese culture. As a feature filmmaker, you have written and directed a love story and a horror movie. As a painter you have been producing art for 30 years. You have won awards for your art and filmmaking.
I can see your style is colorful and complicated. Your paintings show much more than what they are and bring out emotions that rest inside. Your art has an understanding of the Chinese that few western people have.
Being Chinese, I am proud of China’s long splendid history, their magnificence culture and beautiful natural scenery. It’s easy to see these attributes inspire you and give your work magic.
LY: What is your overall motivation and inspiration for this series of paintings?
POC: Art is life and as life changes, so does art. My motivation and inspiration comes from my appreciation and excitement about the big changes in China. I also believe their philosophy is very disciplined and I want to grow from this experience.
LY: Your paintings reflect the emotional changes, which a billion people in China are going through. How do you see these changes?
POC: We (western people) have to understand the Chinese have a history of working together for the good of the whole. Also in a communist country you are guarantied a job. But now they are in a free market, where they must compete against one another for business and jobs. They also have to deal with the western market, which is brutal. They do work very hard and compete very well, but they’re not accustomed to the “survival of the fittest” mentality of the western type of market place. Some people succeed, some crash and burn. In the “China Series” of paintings I want to capture the spirit of this evolving country. China is going through a new cultural revolution. Nothing like the 1960’s Cultural Revolution with blood and upheaval, but of free enterprise, cell phones and dog eat dog business deals.
LY: With the language of art, your work calls our attention to the physical and metaphysical disparities between Eastern and Western worlds.
POC: I want western people to understand the disparities are not always in our favor. The Chinese are much better at many things than we are and would probably be the number one country in the world if not for it’s being closed off to the world for so long. Generally, western people are extroverts and the Asians are introverts. The Chinese tend to think before doing and Americans do before thinking, like President George Bush. Don’t misunderstand me, I believe we are at the cutting edge of everything new, due to our western individualism. We have a few people who are brilliant due to the freedoms we enjoy in this country. If someone lacks in one area they can compensate in another, like improving their minds. But I know we can learn from the Asians. A couple of things are self-discipline and respect for parents.
LY: Your paintings characterize the Chinese and their way of life and emphasizes the idea of the primacy of making the art, giving us an essential message. I especially like the painting called “Beijing”.
POC: This is a man transporting food in downtown Beijing. It shows how people on bikes and gasoline power vehicles can work together and also how they compete with each other. The simplicity of life, this guy has, is something I dream about. We’re working at our complex jobs, compared to this guy riding his bike and selling food to his friends and neighbors. Who is the smarter one here?
LY: Why did you want to produce this series of paintings?
POC: I want people, who look at my art, to be transported into another realm, to transcend the normal human experience. My desire is to show this magic, through impressionism. China is a mysterious place and can change your perception of life.
LY: How can your paintings show this mystery?
POC: I believe in painting as quickly as I can, to capture the true feelings I have of the scene. My subconscious is guiding my brush and painting fast does not allow my cognitive thought process or mental ideal of what that should look like influence the outcome. We all have this politically correct idea of what things should be, instead of what they are. The faster I paint the more I show reality instead of what I think reality should be. I feel what is inside of me can be transported through the brush to the canvas if I allow a natural free flow from my mind to my hands.
LY: I think your art and all art makes a political, social and sexual statement. How do you make these statements from your point of view?
POC: Well, I guess by not allowing my ideals to influence my work, I tell the truth about the situation. And the truth is always political, social and sexual. Art is a vehicle for the transmission of ideas through form, the reproduction of the form, with the natural intuition of an animal, only reinforces the concept.
LY: So, are you an animal?
POC: Yes, we all are.
LY: What is the process you actually go through to create your art and how does a visual concept evolve?
POC: To start with I have to have an image to get excited about. Once I have that, I quickly lay down an outline on the canvas. These lines are sometimes so good they (the painted lines) are not painted over and stay in the finished painting. In some areas I apply the paint very thick, and in others I dilute it and spread or drip the paint on the canvas. I have an indifference to art division. I am a modern impressionist, but I believe that the future of art lies in capturing the essence of the image. The only way I know to do this is to allow your natural instincts to overrule your reasoning. What is right and what is wrong? How can we say for sure what is right and what is wrong? So how can we mathematically calculate a person’s soul? We can’t. But we can capture an image that reflects the sensation given to us by that person or scene. It’s like a hunch we get about someone or something. Most of the time we ignore the feeling as long as what the person is saying, corresponds to how the person speaks and their body language. But once that changes we see the conflict. Peter Lorie was great at saying something nice but giving us a bad feeling.
LY: Your Great Wall painting is so strong and brutal in appearance. Most people paint it in the morning mist, with a nice soft touch. You have blood red in the plants and strong sunlight hitting the stone structure. Why did you paint it this way?
POC: There is a traditional story about the Great Wall. A young woman called Meng Jiangnü got married. Shortly after her marriage, her husband was forced to work on the Great Wall. She worried that he would suffer from the cold and began to make a padded cotton jacket. After it was done, she began the long walk from her home in the south to the site of the Great Wall in the north. When she got there and finally found the other men from her village, she was told that her husband had died. She went to the wall and began to cry so loud that 20 li of the wall collapsed and in the pit at the center, she found the body of her husband. Meng Jinagnü threw herself into the sea to join her husband. It’s not hard to understand that in ancient times it was difficult to build the Great Wall. Many people died and many hearts were broken. The Wall was built with tears and blood. That story is why I made the wall so harsh looking.
LY: The feeling of the painting is a little sad. You have a deep understanding of Chinese Culture. It shows in your paintings.
Generally what is the core message you wish to communicate with your artwork?
POC: I believe we can stop this madness of who is the dominant power in the world by understanding others and ourselves. I also believe that, by learning from other cultures we can be open to different ideas and less prejudice toward people who are different. I want “The China Series” to show the humanity of the people. Why are we here? Existentialism, can be explored in art.
LY: This painting of the Chinese Woman you call “Wish” is connected with physical, emotional and psychological issues. You can sense her feelings when you see the painting. How did you get this result?
POC: “Wish” is a painting of my girlfriend and I was fortunate to capture her personality. The light versus the dark, the blending of the brush strokes gives an impression of her passion for life. The look on her face is somewhat uncomfortable and shows how humble she is. The colors of yellow and green shows her vivid style and her love of nature. The intersections of positive and negative space with the strong edges around her figure, makes her image stand out in the picture. This was the first painting I did in two years, because I was busy with my documentary “Artists of Beijing”, which took a lot of time to shoot and edit. I was afraid it would take a few paintings to get back to my previous level of skill. When she sat for the painting, it only took about a half an hour to paint her image. I could feel the image running though me to the canvas. I love this painting. I believe this is the best work I have ever done! Time off seems to be good.
LY: Patrick, thank you for your time.
POC: You’re welcome.
From interviewing Patrick Otis Cox and seeing his work, I feel he paints about the inside of life, instead of just the surface. From seeing his work we can become more than what we were. He experiences a spiritual connection as he creates art. With his modern impressionism, he uncovers the emotions in his subjects and within us all.