Modern Eden Gallery is thrilled to host San Francisco-based artist and illustrator Martin Hsu in the back gallery for Ningyo 人魚 (human fish). This new exhibit features an installation of new works of Hsu’s ephemeral creatures - the goldfish mermaid. The goldfish originated from the wild over 2000 years ago. They were kept by The Emperor as imperial treasures, raised by the rich and noble as valuable prizes, and closely guarded for their metallic scales - a symbol of good fortune and prosperity. Martin Hsu’s goldfish mermaids are a personification of these auspicious keepings. They are great maternal spirits in our lives, blessed with grace and strength, looking after the past, present, and beyond. The mermaids exist neither in air nor water, but in a quiet place Martin refers to as metta - a place within ourselves filled with benevolence, warmth, and loving-kindness. It’s where goodwill flourishes and happiness resides.
Like Mother Nature, goldfish mermaids command immense power. They are protectors of our essence represented by flora blooming in metta. Such flora includes Chinese flowers of the Four Seasons: orchid in the Spring, symbol of integrity and nobility; lotus in the Summer, symbol of purity and humility; chrysanthemum in the Autumn, symbol of longevity and vitality; and plum blossom in the Winter, symbol of courage and resilience. Goldfish mermaids are celestial guardians who effortlessly patrol this place to keep it safe from harm. In an infinite universe, goldfish mermaids are solar flares, glistening moonlight, and shooting stars. They are symbols of beautiful blessings in abundance and well-wishes transcending time and space. They remind us to be at peace in stillness, to reflect upon nature, and to look for love within.
Martin Hsu is an Asian American artist living and working in San Francisco, CA. He fell in love with drawing at his grandparents' house while growing up in Taiwan. In 1991, Martin moved to the US with his parents due to health reasons that completely changed his life. Martin graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Animation from California State University in Fullerton, and worked professionally as a character designer for Nickelodeon and Disney TV Animation.
Martin learned how to paint by studying works by his favorite artists and by making lots of bad paintings; he learned what to paint by studying books on Asian history, world mythology, and family photo albums. Martin is a traditionalist making art in the contemporary world. He creates New Traditional Asian Art by fusing modern narrative with eastern sensibility. Works of peony blossoms and goldfish mermaids painted with delicate precision by using calligraphy brush directly onto wood panels, covered in thin layers of metallic gold and silver to resemble imperial silk. Surreal and serene images depicting an infinite universe transcending time and space where tradition blooms and mythology lives.
Martin is a naturalist at heart. Half human creatures from myths and legends represent the struggle with our animal nature, that by destroying the natural world, we destroy a part of ourselves. His works glorify our kinship with the planet by humanizing virtual reality and by bringing warmth to technology. Since 2006, Martin’s original artwork has been shown all around the world, including Young Art Taipei in Taiwan, Asia Contemporary in Hong Kong, Hello Kitty Anniversary Exhibition at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, Disney’s WonderGround Gallery by Disneyland, and on the Google campus.
Martin never lost sight of his roots in the new world. His cultural heritage and family ties remain the biggest influence in his work. As an immigrant in America and an inhabitant of this planet, Martin hopes to continue his contemplation through art about our existence now and beyond.