I’ll be honest, before being offered to review this book I had not really heard of Luke Chueh. That is, until I started doing a little research…at which point I realized I had seen his work, but not his name. The Art Of Luke Chueh: Bearing The Unbearable is the first authorized compendium of his work. It draws together pieces from 2003 to 2009, collecting over 200 paintings for your viewing pleasure. There are many famous ones in here, like Hare-Cut from 2004, but I want to share with you a few that stood out to me, speaking to me on a more personal level. Keep in mind this is my perception of the artwork, which may not be what the artist intended.
In 2003’s Ham, I found myself staring at the page. It was a perfect rendering of what addiction feels like. In this piece, a pig is holding a knife and fork, having supposedly devoured the bottom half of itself. In my experience, this is exactly what it feels like to know what you are doing is consuming you, but to be powerless to stop it. This single page stopped me dead in my tracks and forced me to remember some of the worst parts of my life. It also reminded me that I was strong enough to survive it. But maybe I read too much into it…
His piece, The Pianist (2004), evokes feelings of hopelessness. From its blue base color to the obvious discontent of the creature, you are immersed in a sense of sadness. The Prisoner from 2005 shows a bear trapped in a pill bottle, another obvious feeling of entrapment due to addiction, though this one seems less deadly. His predominant use of bears, regardless of the theme, is interesting. It combines the cute and cuddly with the macabre. Never enough to horrify, it instead enables the artist to convey his message in a dark way without overwhelming the viewer.
On the flip side, Chueh has put forth some art that is merely fun and whimsical, like Gero-Hero/Bat-Bear from 2006. It’s exactly what it sounds like…a little teddy bear dressed in a cowl and cape. You know me, I’m a sucker for anything Batman related. These lighter pieces are few and far between, however. Other, darker works, like Shining Down On Me from 2007, show our little bear friend doing things like tearing his own eyes out. This theme of self mutilation is a common denominator throughout a lot of this book, revealing the darkness that haunts us all.
There was another piece of artwork that stuck out. In 2007, Chueh produced Rainbow Series 2. It immediately seemed to be a self portrait of sorts. A bunny, having had its head ripped off, emits a rainbow that finds another hare standing near staring at the pot of gold at the end. To me, it seems to represent the artist having bared his soul to create the treasures which he shows to the public. But again, maybe I called it wrong.
Bits and pieces of Luke Chueh’s life are presented to us through short stories, personal ramblings, and introductions by friends. The cult following that he has attracted is due mainly to his ability to create art on a primitive level. Using simple but compelling themes, he brings some of our darker thoughts and feelings to life. This book is 192 pages of pure awesome. I definitely consider myself a fan now. This guy does wonders with paint and brush, I can attest to that. If you like his work, this book is for you. If not, well…this collection may convince you otherwise. And if anyone wants to buy me a print or two, I’d be okay with that.