In honor of our upcoming show, Su-Li Hung and Richard Sloat: 40 Years Together in Art, we asked Richard Sloat to write about his time with Su-Li, and how their partnership has influenced his printmaking. Below, you will find his thoughts- a very personal account of their life together.
A special thanks to Richard for composing and sharing this beautiful and interesting account for our OPG blog and readers!
“Su-Li Hung & Richard Sloat: 40 Years Together in Art”
by Richard Sloat
Su-Li and I met at the Art Students League in 1971. We were both studying printmaking at the time. I studied basically etching, with Roberto De Lamonica, while Su-Li studied woodcut with Seong Moy. We lived together on the upper West Side near Columbia University. In 1972, we married and spent a year, 1972-73, in Taiwan, Su-Li’s homeland. At the time Taiwan was a beautiful semi-tropical agrarian land with golden rice fields and mist-enwrapped high mountains. Our year was spent traveling the island, painting, for the most part watercolor, landscapes. Su-Li, in later years, developed a wonderful group of Taiwan woodcuts which was published as a book in the 1980’s.
On our return to the United States we actively sought to find a place to live in the Northern Catskill Mountains so we could continue our landscapes. But after a series of misadventures we tried New York City and immediately found a downtown loft with a fantastic view of the city. From that moment onward citiscape has become one of our major motifs. Su-Li did woodcuts of Taiwan and New York, while I did etchings, mainly of the city. In 1977, inspired by Su-Li’s work, I cut my first woodcut, a citiscape. After cutting an image of the city I became stuck on how to cut a sky in wood. Su-Li, using both the knots and grain of the wood, cut a moving sky to complete the work.
In 1977, our son Benjamin was born. When he was only eight months old we returned to Taiwan. This time we spent over a year and a half living in a mountain area that bordered Taipei. We literally lived in and with the clouds. It was three months before I could clearly see the top of the mountain we lived on. I started a series of Taiwan mountain woodcuts. Su-Li continued her Taiwan woodcuts, even while mothering Ben. As a matter of fact, Ben became a frequent subject for her woodcuts.
Returning to the United States we somehow landed in a brownstone apartment just a few doors down from our old loft building. This area was the old Jewish Lower East Side. Over the years we lived there, this section became the easternmost part of Chinatown. It has changed now to the LES, with galleries and wine bars. In the 1980’s we became active bird watchers. New York City and environs is a surprisingly good area to see birds. Su-Li did a large number of naturalist bird woodcuts that she also used to illustrate her articles for Taiwanese newspapers and magazines. Su-Li is a prolific and well-known essayist, poet, and writer in Taiwan. My prints in the 1980’s were largely geometrically abstracted citiscapes. In the late 1980’s I continued the Taiwan mountain woodcut series. This time, after short visits to the island, the images were cut from memory.
In the 1990’s our work further evolved. I returned to etching, and with a conscious effort was able to recapture and develop my citiscape aquatint style of the 1970’s. Su-Li has developed an abstract design style of woodcut that uses repeating patterns of building windows. Our son studied at Berkeley and now teaches at The Art Institute of Boston. In 1993, it was he who encouraged us to move uptown to the East Village. As we had in our loft of the 1970’s, our new apartment has a fascinating panoramic view of the city.
In reflecting back on our forty years together as artists it would seem that the main benefit has been one of mutual support. It has been very worthwhile to have a practiced eye and knowledgeable opinion to turn to when stuck or doubtful on a piece of artwork or just to reflect where things are going. When putting together a group of images for presentation a second opinion has been valuable. In addition we’ve helped each other, so many times, in getting venues to show our work. Though our bios are diverse, there are numerous points of commonality. We’ve been in dozens of two-person and group shows together, and we are in many of the same public collections. There have been times, even years, when one of us has gone off in an artistic direction not appreciated or understood by the other. This can be trying but also can be lived with, for underneath lies a mutual respect. Living with someone who knows and loves art, and can show you the world through their artistic eyes, this everyday living is of the deepest essence.
To see the prints selected for the show 40 Years Together in Art, click here.