6 Major Themes:
1. Capturing the true spirit of the horse.
This series consists of both single and group horse- paintings. The unsaddled horses are depicted in various actions such as galloping, cantering, rearing and jumping. In this series, James Phua integrates his solid skills of traditional Chinese painting with a sense of modernity. Through the employment of his bold and vigorous brushwork, the horses on the rice papers have become such alive with powerful energy in both outward appearance and inward spirit.
2. Expressing the power and energy generated in equestrian sports.
James Phua has adopted themes that other Chinese horse painters have rarely depicted such as his series of equestrian sports which includes horse racing, polo and show jumping. In terms of techniques, conceptions and style, his one-of-a -kind artworks have fully revealed a sense of speed and modernity. In such theme, particularly in his ‘Polo’ series has projected a dignified air of royalty which has captured the focus of royal art collectors.
3. Surrealism horse painting through artistic imagination.
As for this theme, James Phua has currently created a series of ‘Flying Horses’. He has drawn this inspiration from the images of flying angels which were painted in the caves of Dun Huang thousand years ago. With the aim of bringing the beholders of his artworks into an infinite space of imagination, the horses of this theme are depicted like the angels painted in the caves of Dung Huang, flying freely around the abstract flow.
4. Depicting the legends of the world’s greatest horses .
Currently, James Phua has painted a series of the greatest racehorse of all times, ‘Secretariat’ in which he narrates the legend of Secretariat winning the Triple Crowns in 1973. Secretariat deceased in 1989, but it has become the forever spiritual idol for horse enthusiasts around the world. In this series, James Phua has succeeded to reborn the spirit of Secretariat with his distinctive art skills. In viewing his ‘Secretariat’, the beholder’s soul is tremendously roused up by the impact generated in his paintings. This series can be regarded as one of James Phua’s representative works.
5. A-single-stroke-horse painting
As an artist whose perception is ahead of his time, James Phua has the courage to challenge art techniques which require extremely high end skills by creating his ‘A-single-stroke-horse painting’. In this unparalleled creation, James Phua has not only been able to complete the horse painting with just a single stroke without a break, but also has succeeded to reveal the horse perfectly in both outward appearance and inward spirit at the same time . This creation is amazing and extra-ordinary. In the field of contemporary Chinese painting, James Phua is the first artist who has mastered a-single-stroke-horse painting.
6. The horse with modern sports car
Presently, James Phua has created a series of ‘Ferrari with the Black Stallion’. James Phua is the first artist who has depicted modern vehicles in the Chinese horse painting with a perfect match which projects a sense of modern romanticism. In this series, the black stallion is running neck and neck competing with the Ferrari sports car, moving forward towards the same destination. This series not only reveals a sense of luxury and glamour, but also evokes the spirit of competition motivating its beholders fight for a better future.
7. Other Themes
In James Phua’s creations, his source of inspiration has no boundaries and has endless creativity. Currently his portfolios include ‘The Girl with Her Horse’, ‘Horses In Abstraction’ and other distinctive artworks.
Techniques of Painting Horses:
The revolutionary techniques, conceptions and style employed in his Chinese horse paintings have opened up a new horizon and perspective on the development of Chinese horse painting. The followings are the explanations:
1. Emphasis on the study of real horses
James Phua emphasizes the study of real horses, especially anatomy and personality of horses. He never blindly follows the art styles of earlier generation artists. In order to strengthen the knowledge of horses, he has been exchanging views and opinions with jockeys, horse trainers and horse owners.
James Phua’s mastery of horse anatomy and gaits has gained great recognition from Australian Senior horse trainer Richard Lines, 2013 Best trainer of MRA.
2. ‘Ultra-freestyle’ technique
The horse painting technique of James Phua is very comprehensive. He has not only mastered both traditional elaborate-style and freestyle Chinese painting, but also has created the ‘Ultra-freestyle’ in Chinese horse painting. In this pioneering method, he completes the horse painting under a continuous flow of “Qi”. Such technique has generated tremendous power and impact to its beholders.
3. Expert in using large Chinese flat brushes
James Phua is expert in using large Chinese flat brushes for his horse painting. Such technique is rarely applied in traditional Chinese horse painting due to its difficulty in mastering the brushwork. Needless to say, this painting technique has made James Phua’s horse paintings stand out among others.
4. ‘Calligraphic Motion Blur’ technique
In some of James Phua’s horse paintings, he approaches contemporary photography effect. The most significant effect is ‘Motion Blur’ as a result of slow shutter speed. He assimilates this technique to render the gallop motion of the horse. In this series, the four limbs of the horse are presented in the unique calligraphic motion blur style .This perfect combination of the ‘Motion Blur’ effect and Chinese cursive calligraphy has not only projected the speedy motion of the horse entirely, but also has created a great artistic sense.
5. ‘Calligraphic Motion Trails’ technique
Besides, James Phua also transforms the ‘Multi Exposure Photography Effect’ into his horse painting as ‘Calligraphic Motion Trails’ technique. In this series, the consecutive motions of the horse are overlapped and integrated one another, bringing the figurative horse images into an abstract sense. The tremendous energy generated in this technique is just like a surging symphony rousing up the beholders.
6. ‘Ink Splattering’ technique
James Phua is also expert in using ‘Ink Splattering’ technique to enhance the environment and ambiance of a painting. Especially in creating the dusty effect during the gallop of the horse, he shows wonderful and skillful management in the usage of ‘Ink Splattering’ technique. James Phua’s perfect application of this technique is indeed unique and remarkable in the field of Chinese horse painting.
7. Reach the level of “Merge into one”
James Phua’s technique in painting horses is never restricted and bounded by any hard and fast rules. He paints horses according to unsetting steps and procedures. In other words, his skillful technique has upgraded to the highest level where the imagery of the horse and the soul of the artist have merged into one. Simply amazing!
The Conception and Composition
1. Adventurous, brave and creative conception
The conception of James Phua’s horse painting is adventurous, brave and creative. These values have shown his enthusiasm and devotion for exploring new horizons of art development. In his art works, he employs the merged techniques of photography effects and painting, the sentiment of surrealism, the values in using bold colors, the new visual possibilities in composition as well as the artistic fascination of fast motions.
2. Integration of main subject and background
In James Phua’s horse painting, he not only concerns about the depiction of the main subject (the horse), but also emphasizes the harmonious integration of its main subject and background. His wonderful touch on the composition always makes a perfect interaction between the main subject and the background.
3. Unparalleled achievement in group horse-painting
The more horses depicted in a painting, the more difficult to manage the composition. Thus, painting a group of horses is a huge challenge to horse painters. Majority of group horse-paintings in the current art market are lack of integrated composition, more like a montage of unconnected individual subjects. Unlike those artists, James Phua brings out the herding characteristic of horses for his horse painting. He even manages to project the roles of ‘Alpha’ (the leading horse in the herd) and its followers, especially the individual interaction among the horses. His horse painting is well taking care of the entire rhythm of the composition as well as the coordination of space structure. The postures and actions of horses are rich in variation yet perfect in harmony. The distinctiveness in these artworks has testified that he deserves one of the greatest masters of horse painting.