Biography Caroline R. Young
As an adopted child of Chinese-American ex-patriots living in Hong Kong, I have always been intrigued by how the Chinese culture explained the mysteries of the universe. Just as American kids grew up with Cinderella and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Chinese children heard stories about Chang-Er and her Rabbit, and Kwan Yin the Goddess of Mercy. These tales go one step further to explain why there is only one sun in our universe, why we cannot gaze directly into its glare, how the carp/koi fish is transformed into a mighty dragon, how lightning is created, so on and so forth. They incorporate mysticism with Buddhist and Taoist beliefs, history merges with mythology and vice versa, notwithstanding the disparity of time and place. Amazingly, some of these stories have parallels in some western cultures, such as the Great Flood, as well as gods and goddesses that have their own petty quarrels and rivalries. All this forms the central theme of my work. And the more I research into the mythology and history of China, the more I find in common with other cultures of the world. My medium is watercolor, acrylic and gouache on Japanese silk. The technique is the labor-intensive "gongbi" style of traditional Chinese brush painting, whereby multiple light washes of color are applied in successive layers to build up the intensity of colors. It takes 6 to 8 weeks to complete a 30 inch by 20 inch painting, working on one painting at a time, 8 to 10 hours a day, 6 days a week. I incorporate a multitude of symbolism into the work. As I read a story, an image forms in my mind, and that is what I paint. And the emotions I feel are expressed through the colors I use. Through my work, I hope to share the culture of a civilization over five thousand years old, as well as to give some insight into the motivations, aspirations and ethos of modern-day China. Many of my clients are second, third and fourth generation Chinese Americans searching for their forgotten heritage, but you don't have to be Asian to appreciate a good story or to have fun finding out how Chang-Er and her Rabbit ended up in the moon.
In classical Oriental painting, artists approach their work the way pianists in the West might approach the existing compositions of the great masters. Each new painting was a performance that the artist rehearsed for by practicing the performance of earlier painters. Contemporary artist Caroline Young took that wisdom to heart. Her delicate watercolors on silk pay homage to classical Chinese technique called the "delicate style," and the lessons she learned from her mentor, Lam Oi Char. Each is a virtuoso celebration.
"Lam Oi Char changed my life. My mother had encouraged me to paint as a teenager in Hong Kong where I was born and raised. But it was not until I began studying watercolor wit Lam Oi Char that I gained the confidence to succeed as an artist, "says Young. From her teacher Caroline Young learned the traditional forms of Chinese art and filled her silken rural landscapes. She chose as her medium Chinese watercolors, acrylic and gouache. Caroline mixes her own colors to achieve unique and vibrant tones, unavailable in commercially prepared paints.
Caroline’s soft, lyrical brush work and graceful composition has earned her critical and popular acclaim. Although her Japanese themes brought her to fame, Young decided to return to Chinese historical subjects. "I wanted to pay homage to my great-grandparents, who immigrated to Hawaii from China, and to commemorate the bicentennial celebration of the first Chinese to arrive in Hawaii."
Caroline Young is currently at work on her most ambitious project to date, the Immortal Twelve Suite. The paintings on silk will depict legends of the twelve signs of the eastern zodiac. This is a major project for the artist which will last for many years, and one which promises to cement Young’s place in the ranks of outstanding contemporary artists in America.
"Art has given me a second chance to learn the essence of my own culture and to discover what it means to be Chinese. I will continue to paint Japanese subjects in the future because so many of my collectors enjoy them so much, and I enjoy doing them. But I will concentrate the main thrust of my artwork on Chinese subjects, such as "The immortal Twelve Suite." When I’m not painting I spend most of my time researching Chinese history, culture, costumes and ornamentation."
Says writer Larry V. Ledoux about Caroline Young. "Her work is soft, serene and subtle. Superbly painted. Fascinating. Even compelling. They appeal to our sensitivity for beauty, to our love for a good story, to our curiosity about those who came before us, those who grew old in cultures older than our own. Given this, Ms. Young’s growing national success is not surprising. Young's works are collected all over the world, from England to Singapore, Hong Kong to Australia. She is also in the permanent collection of the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, and the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena.