Bright ideas from the hole in his soul
by Mia Taylor

Affectionate nightmares? Approach-ably tragic? What is an apt oxymoron to describe the paintings of Luke Chueh? What might seem at first glance, adorable, becomes increasingly disturbing, and then very funny, and not necessarily in that order. Says Chueh, "A friend of mine said to me, 'it's like you're in a room with this character, and the character has got issues... but that's okay." The 31-year old Chinese America grew up in Fresno, (I went to a Clovis Unified School. If you know anything about Clovis, you'd know that it's not minority friendly. I think that some of the hardships I dealt with back in the day have become my inspiration), studied graphic design at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and turned to painting in desperation only when he could not find a design job to save his life. Once it occurred to him that every award or accolade he had won for design had his illustrations incorporated, he decided it was a logical direction. The reaction was better than he dreamed. Although he has actually been painting less than a year, he describes the response as "overwhelming," virtually selling out his very first solo L.A. show at the Black Market gallery.

His influences range from Rothko to Sanrio, to Japanimation. When prodded as to why bunnies, he replies that bears are actually his primary animal subject, "I use bears because of nicknames I got throughout the years. For some reason, several of my girlfriends have referred to be as 'their panda' or something like that. I use bunnies to break up the monotony." The titles are as inspired as the images, and clearly are an integral part of the overall effect. Where and when do they come from? "My titles come to me at different times. Sometimes I think of a witty titles and try and find a way to portray that idea in an even wittier way. For instance I've been brainstorming a way of illustrating the concept of 'crushed by his own ambition.' Sometimes I have an image in my head, and after finishing it, the title comes to me. Example: I had an idea of a bear pulling light bulbs from a wound in his chest. After thinking about it I decided to title it 'Inspiration (Bright Ideas from the Hole In My Soul).'" What's next for Luke Chueh? "Well, I think it's time to start making the rounds through the galleries. I'm developing a T-Shirt line with some friends, and I'd love to do some editorial illustration for publications or book covers. Wish me luck!"