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Friday, June 9, 2017

Raymond Han

Studio Still-Life #4, 2006, Raymond Han
At various times, I've gone on at some length lamenting the fact that I've had abysmal difficulties in selling still-life paintings. Though I love to paint them and have tried various types of content, both traditional, contemporary, and what I call an abstract realism, seldom have I been successful in turning one of my favorite types of art into my favorite type of sales (cash). During the past week or so I've been studying the still-lifes of other artists who have, presumably, had better luck at selling such works. One artist in particular, the recently deceased, Raymond Han (died, April 18, 2017) has helped me come to realize that maybe I've been doing it all wrong for almost fifty years.
Classical Vase & Rice Bowls, 1983, Raymond Han
To oversimplify a bit, I've been trying too hard. I was taught in college to choose related objects, grouping them in a natural manner so as to evoke the feeling of casual, random, quality to the scene. Color and mood were considered quite important as well as some form of subtle messaging. As you can see from Han's Studio Still-life #4 (top), dating from 2006 and his Classical Vase and Rice Bowls (above) from 1983, Raymond Han seems to have rejected all, or most, of these "rules."
White, Raymond Han
There is nothing random in his compositional arrangements of simple ceramic items. Aside from their being ceramic, they bear little relationship to one another and are not even particularly interesting. And as for moody color...forget it. He likes things pristinely white (or nearly so) and seemingly uses color simply for its shock value (top). His still-life titled White (above), though blessed with several interesting color subtleties, seems to reject color except for the intrusion of a lavender sheet of paper and an extremely subtle light green serving as his base. All else is austere.
Peonies, Raymond Han
Inasmuch as floral arrangements are considered still-lifes, Han dabbled from time to time in this subcategory. But even when presented with a perfectly reasonable and acceptable opportunity to be colorful, he rejects all but the softest, palest rendering in favor of playing around with the setting as in his Peonies (above), in which the table covering becomes far more interesting than what would normally be the primary point of interest--the peonies--from which the painting takes its title.
Raymond Han died earlier this year (1917) at the age eighty-six.

I've not been able to ascertain a
title for this still-life in which Han
incorporates a male figure.
Raymond Han was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1931, (before statehood) when the islands were simply an American territorial possession. Nonetheless he is an American painter by birth. The tondo image above is his only self-portrait. Even photos of the artist seem quite rare. Han studied at New York's Art Students League with Frank Mason and Robert Beverly Hale before moving to upstate New York for most of his working life. Though Han was best known for his photorealistic still-lifes, he also incorpor-ated the human figure as well as ab-straction into his compositions.
Matthew, 2001,
Raymond Han
In painting the human figure, Raymond Han treats his subjects much the same as he does his still-lifes. His Matthew (right) is so devoid of human warmth as to appear to be a high-resolution digital enlargement. Using the same pose with a nude figure, Yannis (below), we see Han reverting to his typical still-life color choices, employing subtleties which almost make the figure disappear into the background. I'm uncertain as to which painting was done first.

Yannis, Raymond Han
Minimizing color and composition may have it's own subtle attraction insofar as still-lifes and figures are concerned, but when the same artist tries applying this aesthetic to non-representation art, such as seen in Han's Plastic Variations VI (below), dating from 2012, such subtleties begin to fall into the realm of Minimalism, moving through the emptiness of time and space toward a dead end of nothingness.

Plastic Variations VI, 2012, Raymond Han

Copyright, Jim Lane
Fifty-Thousand Miles, Jim Lane.
Colorless, but not very subtle. Maybe
I should have used a white background.


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