Byron Shen's "The Harvest" is devoid of detail, instead opting for hints of land, hills and sunset. This elusiveness of abstract art is exactly what drew him to develop his landscapes.
"It's not that you can't see a beautiful literal landscape differently, but that's what it will always be," said Shen, whose "Passages" exhibit is now on display at the state Capitol. "But with abstract landscapes, their meaning changes over time, even from day to day."
Shen finds it rewarding to being able to come back to his own work and pull a different meaning, or uncover another detail he didn't know was there. Some paintings are just washes of blues, whites and grays.
"I'm usually surprised how they (the audience) see it, how they take it," he said. "Once they tell me about it, I can see it. It's like staring at a ceiling tile and seeing a face. Once you've seen the face, you will always see that face."
At one point, the Hong Kong-born Shen was on track to be a writer, even getting his bachelor's degree in creative writing. But he took a turn toward painting because he craved the freedom that came with it.
"As much as people try to experiment in writing, the writers that I find are the most gifted, there is still a linear form when they experiment," he said. "To grasp meaning, there still has to be one thought leading to another thought."