Watercolor more than any other medium is marked
by a long established tradition. Making the medium "behave"
has been an often quoted tenet - those painters who rank on most lists
of historicaIly important practitioners of the art have been anything
The power of John Marin's work, for example, is
drawn from the kind of risk-taking which has moved generations of artists
to accept alternative solutions.
Paul Ching-Bor has taken and pushed the watercolor
medium through a century of powerful influences, including abstract
expressionism. What emerges is a totally fresh approach, a watercolor
painting which rivals in vision, form and execution any work on paper
done since the 1950s.
At first glance Bor's paintings present a barrage
of intense brush work recalling on one level the bold angular gestures
of Franz Kline yet on another, the dark and mysterious images associated
with the block prints of the German Expressionists.
Yet while art historical references can be seen
- Paul Ching-Bor is an original. Drawing principally upon such linear
structures as bridges and other constructivist - like subjects, the
paintings reveal a content that surely extends well beyond "realist"
Ultimately the true content of Bor's work is the
process of painting itself. This is an art about art. This is an art
which underscores the fact that great and endearing art contains a magic
which Kandinsky once referred to as "the spiritual".
The fact that Paul Ching-Bor is of Chinese heritage
and education at first glance does not seem to be a factor in the work.
I do not see the "East meets West" character that one might
find in the ethereal and romantic works of the legendary master Chen
Chi who finds strength in balancing East-West traditions.
If Bor's work pays any homage at all to the land
of his birth it is in his understanding of the seductivenes of paper
and how the fluid personality of the medium of watercolor must be accommodated.
Bor is an expressionist who looks back at a century
of painterly painting and approaches it with a freshness that stops
us in our tracks. This is Kirchner as he might have been at century's
end. This is a young painter's response to the final chapter of the
20th century and perhaps what Kirchner and his circle confronted at
the close the 19th century. Essentially both stood up and proclaimed
that "vision" is not only about optical focus -it is about
the focus of the heart as well.
Louis A. Zona
The Butler Institute of American Art