Painting of the Day

11 Feb


Family Sitting #2. by Lien Truong (born 1973). Oil on wood panel, 2005. Currently on view at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

Personal statement from the artist at

The act of manipulating pigment over a support instantaneously embraces centuries of historical drawing and painting, art made integral with religious principals and cultural ideologies. I am at once undeniably seduced by the sensation and process of pushing material over a surface and at the same time curiously fixated on the present-day relevance and discoveries of these primordial acts. For me, the advancement of art and culture are parallel. Creating art becomes an illuminating act, one undertaken to understand contemporary doctrines by the study of evolving sentiments. My work examines the development and substance of our belief systems.

My comments:

I saw this painting yesterday at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in the exhibition “The Female Gaze: Women Artists Make Their World,” my review of which will be appearing in the upcoming issue of the Phoenix this Thursday. But my visit to this exhibition was my inaugural visit to the PAFA, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. I had low expectations for it because it’s just an arts college and not an actual museum, but the space was actually quite large and had a very visually pleasing design. Not to mention, the art was surprisingly superb. 

The painting above was one of those superb paintings for me. It is extremely similar to Rene Magritte’s work, both in style of painting and in its approach to surrealism. When I say that, I mean that I think that Magritte’s brand of surrealism is to paint conventional subject matter in a realistic, although not hyper-realistic, manner, but then change one small thing about the picture that sometimes is so subtle you don’t even notice it, but once you do notice it, it suddenly transforms the painting into something completely absurd. 

The same is true for Family Sitting #2. It would otherwise be a completely traditional, actually boring painting, except for the fact that the bodies of the figures that should be occupying the clothes are completely erased from the painting. Truong made sure to make everything in the painting look completely normal, even the formal elements. There aren’t any daring colors, the composition is very straightforward, and family portraits are one of the oldest subjects in the history of art, and they show up in just about every historical era in every place in the world. That’s what makes this painting so shocking, even in today’s world where it often feels like artists have done just about every shocking thing possible.

One Response to “Painting of the Day”

  1. tara February 12, 2013 at 3:16 am #

    This doesn’t look like a family sitting, because i like/love my family. it looks like a salesman get together to me.! or the government. they are the empty suits..Maybe this is Obama at the bengaizi meeting- oh wait Obama was sleeping and then went to las vegas and was unavailable for comment while americans were dying…….

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