It's a little hard to know how to approach an exhibit of metaphysical, surreal, spiritual and technically excellent oil paintings that “tell a story” and sometimes seem to have almost “too much information.”
But this near overabundance of visual riches is a problem most artists and art fans might well envy who visit Pavel Wang Yu Tsai's “From Russia With Love” show at the Paseo Originals Art Gallery.
Born in 1956 in Kyrgyzstan, Yu Tsai, who is visiting Oklahoma City and doesn't speak English, will attend a closing reception for the show with a translator from 6:30 to 9 p.m. July 28.
Sand runs out of the hourglass of an angelic figure, standing in the water near a pair of shell-scales, on which a small, sunlit figure and a grimacing classical mask are balanced in Yu Tsai's “New Century.”
Done in the mid-1990s, this oil was based on the artist's hope that innocent suffering would become a thing of the past in the new millennium, a gallery note for the “retrospective of fantasy” states.
A white-robed, Christ-like figure, standing in a boat, rows over a lily pond, toward a radiant figure, seated like Buddha on the opposite bank, or in the sky, in “Siddhartha,” based on Hermann Hesse's novel.
Nearly demonic looking bald men's heads crowd around to ogle the bare feet of a robed person with a stave, stepping on hot coals, in “Walking Man,” described as a metaphor for the difficult path we all take.
A man rises from a manhole in a forest clearing, looking upward to a second manhole, partly open to reveal the starry night sky, in a science fiction-like oil called “Roaming Inside Yourself II.”
More downbeat is the crouching figure in a ruined hovel who follows “The Path of Cognition,” but won't “risk … travel into the unknown,” suggested by a door open to the cosmos behind his back.
Equally intriguing is an oil of two “Players,” bent over a chess game in progress between good and evil, in the sky over a crowd of people's heads whose “destinies are a subject and circumstance of the board.”
Wonderfully macabre and fairy tale-like are his oils of a puppet on strings, gesturing to us as if perplexed by the identity of the “Puppeteer” who created him, and of a dance at the wedding of two sad-looking clowns.
Yu Tsai is a film art director as well as artist who teaches art and belongs to the union of artists and the union of cinematographers in Kyrgyzstan.
The 29 oil paintings on panel and canvas in his show, curated by Paseo Originals gallery director Tony Morton, are highly recommended viewing during its run through July 28.
— John Brandenburg