Born and raised in Hong Kong, of Eurasian heritage, Maria Lobo’s art training took her to Italy, Spain and the USA. Studying at the University of Santa Clara and the San Francisco Art Institute, she gained degrees in Fine Art and Painting in 1985. Maria returned to Hong Kong in 1994, having been part of the San Francisco Hunters Point Artists’ Community. A decade later, Maria returned to North America and currently resides in San Francisco. She exhibits internationally.
My work is like a vignette of another world, another dimension. I have always incorporated three main themes in my art: rendering of negative space; patterning; putting order on chaos. Using this vocabulary, I create mixed media works on paper, canvas and wood. It wasn’t until recently that I really understood why.
Although I am trained in Western art methods and history, my work is unmistakably informed by my Asian roots. Born and raised in Asia and exposed to Chinese and Japanese traditional paintings throughout my life, Eastern visuals and techniques readily appear in my work – Chinese symbols, mythology references , the application of paint, materials selection, and layering of shapes and overlapping forms to create distance and depth.
Often my focus is on painting the background, or negative space, not the foreground. I attempt to organize abstraction, or chaos. My forms seem to float in space, but through their placement, I am creating balance. By patterning and by the rendering negative space around the forms, I somehow encapsulate them. I am creating forms in specific reference to their placement, depth and spatial relations to one another. Viewers might ask themselves: what is the form and what is the ground? This is at times intentionally ambiguous. I tend to vacillate between both dimensions. My search for balance within the painting’s own depth, surface and vertical-horizontal orientation may come from my search for my own placement in this world: geographically, socially, ethnically, culturally, in space and time.
I incorporate materials in a spontaneous way. I use whichever material works visually at the time. I might incorporate antique Japanese papers, Chinese ink, gold leaf and acrylic paint, all on one canvas. I work intuitively; the work itself guides my next move.
Sometimes my canvases are split into halves or thirds. This is another method of creating balance. It may be an East/West balance, or a hard/soft balance, a dark/light balance, or a wild/calm balance. For example, in the ink work, one can see ink splashes on one side and patterning with acrylic paint on the other. In many ways, this is a reflection of me.
Over the years, I have often been asked how I can work in a variety of styles. I am always surprised by this question; I see myself constantly working with the same style and artistic vocabulary. Whether creating leaf patterns, silhouettes of my ancestors, circular forms, or watery lines, I am always impressing the same question: where do we fit in time and space? The specific changes in motifs seem to have arisen out of my international moves. The figures came about after a move back to Hong Kong from San Francisco in 1994. Ten years later, the leaf motif appeared when I moved to Vancouver, Canada. Five years later, the water and stones came when I moved back to the Bay Area.
Currently, my base is the San Francisco Bay Area. California has always had a reputation of being non-conformist and a little “whacky”. It has a wonderful blend of cultures and creative stimulation. This is a perfect place to continue exploring and expressing through my art.