Lucong (Cong Hua Lu)

Lucong (Cong Hua Lu)Born in Shanghai, China during the “Cultural Revolution” (a time in China that could more accurately be called the “Cultural Wasteland”), Lucong (Cong Hua Lu) moved with his family to the American midwest at the age of 11. [Correction, he grew up in the period just after the Cultural Revolution, see this post’s comments.]

He was always interested in drawing and art, but in following the expectation that he would go into the sciences, his BA in art was earned at the University of Iowa while simultaneously pursuing a degree in Biology.

Lucong followed his desire to be an artist first on leaving school, moving to Denver and teaching himself to paint in oil, and achieving recognition relatively quickly.

His oil portraits have a fascinating feeling of delicacy in their Ingres-like attention to line, and the use of muted value and hue relationships within the faces. His faces are often set against a subdued background in similar tones, leaving the subjects’ hair in striking, almost graphic, contrast.

At other times, he uses more dramatic value contrasts between the face and background, but still keeps the color carefully restrained. He sometimes poses his subjects in front of other works of art.

I noticed an almost Gothic simplification of the shapes of eyes; which, along with the sometimes formal poses, gives the portraits some of the penetrating stillness found in pre-Renaissance art.

The portfolio of works on the site is divided into painting and drawings. The drawings, though apparently drawn from life, are more interpretive, almost caricatures, with heads large in proportion to bodies and a pleasantly cartoon-like handling of line.

On Lucong’s blog, you will find the works described in more detail, with dates and sizes. Clicking on the blog images reveals larger versions of the images (lacking in the regular portfolio) that let you appreciate the handling of the surface and marvelous details of the work. There are also pieces there that are not in the portfolio section.

There is a wistfulness to the expressions of his sitters, perhaps exemplifying what he describes in his statement as a longing for something undefined that can never be fully obtained.

[Contains some images that could be considered NSFW]

[Update 2014: Lucong seems to have discontinued his website and blog, and is using a new Tumblr blog:]

7 Replies to “Lucong (Cong Hua Lu)”

  1. Lucong’s rendering skills and composition are remarkable and genuinely admirable. And you know I am a huge fan of this blog, Charley. But I don’t agree that Lucong’s paintings convey “the longing for something undefined that can never be fully obtained.”

    On the contrary, it’s fairly easy to define what these figures long for. They long for food. They are slack-jawed and hollow-cheeked. And they all have the glassy-eyed look symptomatic of nutritional deficiencies. The drawings are chicly derivative of Egon Schiele’s renderings or concentration camp drawings.

    And given that the subjects appear reasonably prosperous (ie. people who can feed themselves if they so choose), I find it difficult to see his art as anything other than a gratuitous glamorization of eating disorders. While I do admire the rendering skill, the color choices and the composition, I find the end results ultimately repugnant in many of these pieces.

    So very hip. So very perverse.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Dan. I don’t quite see his work that way (not all of his figures are emaciated), but you’re spot on about the comparison of his drawings to those of Schiele. I knew I recognized them as similar to someone, just couldn’t put my finger on it.

  3. Errr…I don’t want to be picky but:
    He was born in 1978 and moved to US in 1989. China’s culture revolution ended in 1976. (1966-1976)

    Like many of my cousins in China, his parents should be highly influenced by that era, but himself highly unlikely would be impacted by the restrictions by that time – either in life or in art.

  4. oddly Lucong has removed all images from his blog. He shares very little which is kind of a turn off. I love his images. I have noticed over the years of looking at his work that he removed posts from the internet. Why is he so secretive do you think?

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