“See the world beyond…”
Paul Zimmerman in conversation with Calvin Teng
Paul Zimmerman: When did you become interested in art?
Calvin Teng: Art interested me at an early age, art class in school always brought me joy. My grandfather was a billboard hand painter, maybe it was he that passed on his artistic genes to me.
PZ: What is the most challenging aspect of your work?
CT: Ink painting is normally done with rice paper and can easily create an ink wash effect but difficult to achieve on the much thicker canvas, which is why I choose to paint on canvas. In combining East and West techniques using traditional oil based and acrylic mediums to create the desired ink wash that embodies depth and substance is extremely challenging for me.
PZ: What is your artistic process? How do you create your paintings?
CT: My process originates from my daily life rituals. My background in music and theater has allowed me to merge the essence of melody and poetic expressions into my works. Compositions I construct have to be formed naturally, I cannot force my colors. Developing this practice overtime has granted me to create paintings that are organic, pure, and has enabled me to bring myself to complete oneness.
PZ: How would you define yourself as an artist?
CT: I see myself as a practitioner. Painting itself for me can be defined as a way to meditate, nurture, and cultivate my mind and heart. My mental state will directly reflect upon my works, these elements must be present and in harmony with one another.
PZ: Do you have any particular goal in mind when you start a new piece?
CT: I don’t have any goals before I begin a new piece. More importantly, I focus on calming my inner heart and bring my mind to a state of absolute serenity with my breathing and body rhythm. Once these core essentials are achieved, that is when I begin my first brushstrokes.
PZ: How do you know when the painting is finished?
CT: Before completion, I must align my inner heart and create a dialect frequency with my colors. Upon establishing this frequency, my colors will tell me when and where to stop, this particular feeling can only be felt not purposefully demanded.
PZ: How has your practice changed over time?
CT: The way I approach painting now is all canvas regardless of size has an outer edge limit. However, as a creator, I must not limit myself to the confinements of the canvas size. “See the world beyond, for beyond is the sole reason where we stimulate our creations.”
PZ: Which artists are you most influenced by?
CT: I’m deeply inspired and influenced by pioneer Zhang Da-Qian and master painter Zao Wu-Ki. Their works always have the ability to put me in a state of awe by natural state and harmonious proportions.
PZ: What are you working on now?
CT: Everyday little things from gardening, mopping floors, to everything in between including creating savory and beautiful meals. I make sure I complete one simple task at a time and simply enjoy life, savour and cherish each moment without regrets, and live in the present.
PZ: How does the pandemic influence your work and sensibility?
CT: The pandemic has not affected or influenced my work too much, my painting style will not shift due to COVID. What has changed is everyone not being able to travel frequently anymore, my website has seen a surge in online presence and clients. Perhaps through this pandemic, I consider myself to be quite fortunate and blessed with all these graceful opportunities.