Exploring the Intersection of Nature and Art in Chris Oh’s Latest Exhibition

Detail of “Burl” (2021), acrylic on antique wooden burl slab, 53.34 x 76.2 x 5.08 centimeters

let me take you on a little journey. Imagine walking through the doors of Capsule Shanghai, where time seems to bend and blend, whisking you away to an era where the Northern Renaissance breathed life into canvases. This is where Chris Oh, a modern artist with a penchant for the past, presents his latest exhibition, ‘Passage.’ It’s a series that feels like a whispered conversation between centuries, a dialogue between old souls carved in wood and painted on shells.

“Burl” (2021), acrylic on antique wooden burl slab, 53.34 x 76.2 x 5.08 centimeters

The Heart of the Exhibition: A Fusion of Time and Texture

Chris Oh is not just a painter; he’s a storyteller, a historian of sorts. He takes these iconic Northern Renaissance pieces – think Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Hieronymus Bosch, and Jan van Eyck – and gives them a new home on surfaces that are as much a part of the story as the paint itself. Burl wood with its rugged, untamed patterns, oyster shells gleaming with an inner light… it’s like he’s inviting nature itself to join in the chorus of these age-old tales.

Detail of “Forage” (2023), acrylic on antique burl slab, 65.09 x 81.28 x 6.03 centimeters.

“Forage” and “Reap”: A Dance of History and Nature

Let’s dive into “Forage.” This piece isn’t merely a visual treat; it’s an odyssey. Picture it: as your gaze lands on “Forage,” it’s as if you can trace the textured, rugged landscape of the wood with your own hands. The wood’s natural patterns dance under the intricate portrayal of farm laborers – a subject frequently visited in Northern Renaissance art. Yet, in Oh’s rendition, these figures find a new form of eternity, not on canvas, but on wood that almost throbs with its own history and stories. It’s a vivid fusion where the artwork doesn’t just depict life; it feels alive.

Then there’s “Reap,” a nod to Bruegel’s “The Harvesters.” Oh takes this classic scene of autumnal toil and sets it against the backdrop of gnarled wood. It’s like he’s capturing not just the moment, but the very essence of time and labor, the cycles of nature that these workers are a part of.

“Forage” (2023), acrylic on antique burl slab, 65.09 x 81.28 x 6.03 centimeters

“Gorgon”: Where the Sea Meets the Renaissance

“Gorgon” is another piece that stands out. Imagine Leonardo da Vinci‘s Ginevra de’ Benci, but instead of canvas, her enigmatic face is painted on a sea fan. It’s porous, intricate, almost like a piece of the ocean itself. The effect is mesmerizing – it’s as if the painting is breathing, alive with the mysteries of the deep.

“Reap” (2023), acrylic on antique burl slab, 48.26 x 62.23 x 4.45 centimeters

The Underlying Message: A Reflection on Existence

What Oh is doing here is more than just art. He’s weaving a tapestry of connections – between past and present, between humanity and nature. Fiona He, in her essay on the exhibition, touches on this beautifully. She talks about the celestial and the underworld, and how Oh’s work is a visual exploration of these concepts, a search for beauty in the transient, the impermanent.

“Herd” (2023), acrylic on antique burl slab, 44.13 x 62.87 x 5.08 centimeters

A Timeless Dialogue

‘Passage’ is not just an art exhibition; it’s a conversation across time. It’s Chris Oh, reaching back through the centuries to bring forward stories and perspectives that still resonate with us today. His use of natural materials is a poignant reminder of our place in the world, a world that is ever-changing yet somehow eternally the same.

Top left: “Faint” (2023), acrylic on wood panel with antique frame, 21.27 x 13.65 x 3.18 centimeters. Top right: “Shimmer” (2023), acrylic on seashell, acrylic on seashell, 19.67 x 13.02 x 6.35 centimeters. Bottom left: “Radiate” (2023), acrylic on seashell, 22.9 x 20.32 x 2.54 centimeters. Bottom right: “Shed” (2023), acrylic on wood panel with antique frame, 22.86 x 20 x 2.86 centimeters
“Gorgon” (2023), acrylic on sea fan with wood base, 48.9 x 25.4 x 7.62 centimeters