“Book of Zero Series VIII”, an art exhibition, University Union Art Gallery, CSUS
by Brenda Louie
My first mixed media art installation, “Reflections on Things at Hand” was sponsored by the University Union Gallery at Sacramento State and received a “New Work Awards Grant” from the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission in 1989.
More than 20 years later, the University Union Gallery at Sacramento State generously provides me a wonderful new space to showcase my work this in month. Their newly renovated concrete floor is so beautiful that inspires me to create a floor piece.
I took the opportunity to re-contextualize my pen and ink drawings from 1994-1995, titled “Leaving Home Series,” based on my memories from a child’s bird-eye perspective from the life living in the communist China and British colony, Hong Kong, in the 1950’s”; these drawings are in the collection of Farhat Art Museum. A part of my encaustic pieces from the on-going project “Book of Zero Series”, provoked by the human sufferings from the suppression or oppression endured among those unfortunates daily, all over the world, then and now. And my newly created floor painting, “the First Red Rectangle Series #01,” plays a role as antidotes yet could be read as a restriction and limitation in human freedom. This act of tapestry weaving process is my attempt to connect points and planes as well as thoughts and vision in more than two decades of art making.
“…..look at the Zero and you see nothing,” writes Robert Kaplan, “but look through it and you will see the world.”
I see silence
I see the voices of silence
I see grace
And I see the grace of resilience
A mixed media art installation – floor
Pen and ink drawings by Brenda Louie on loan from Farhat Art Museum Collection
The Book of Zero Series – recent painting and projects
Brenda Louie’s fascination with the number zero as subject matter in visual art corresponds with a general rise of interest in measurement and calculation as conventional forms of valuation. The Book of Zero Series is an ongoing project that engages the circular figure of zero as the artist’s source of imagery, inspiration, and as inquiry into a conundrum. While the arithmetical symbol of zero denotes an absence of quantity, or a calibration by which the notion of nothing can be marked, Louie sees zero as a point of departure for the equivocation of memory and experience in paintings, painted silkscreen prints, and sculpture.
Zero as a symbol and a figure in measurement represents a qualitative advancement in the mind’s capacity for abstraction. Louie’s zero is prescient to a timely obsession with numerical calculations of loss and gain, a value system of inclusion and exclusion, and zero-sum situations. Her expressively visceral work, often evocative of biological diagrams and cosmological maps, expands and the mind’s grasp of scale and detail. The series emphasizes the equivalence between drawing and painting and the tensions between abstraction and representation in the artist’s work.
Louie recognizes the figure zero as a lens through which hindsight and forethought pass. She links the recession of events into memory with the advancement of present-day occurrences in Book of Zero Series 2004, I-80, a matrix of paintings in sequence of burnt black circles and hot red tones. The artist looks into lyrical and functional aspects of the symbol subjectively, and philosophically, as a means to record the fluidity of personal memories against shifts in social values through time. Her sue of a zero as a graphic device forms contour maps in the continuity between distant memories and immediate perceptions.
Robert R. Riley, Director
Richard L. Nelson Gallery & the Fine Arts Collection
Department of Art and Art History
University of California, Davis