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Biography

Adrian Wong Shue

December 30, 1952 – December 12, 2023

Adrian Antonio Wong Shue was born on the Caribbean island of Jamaica in 1952. Family and some friends knew Wong Shue as "Dennis," a nickname earned in childhood as a reflection of his mischievous antics. During the 1960s, the artist studied painting and drawing at Kingston College. Vocational training during Wong Shue's secondary school years included a period of study with a private tutor who taught a traditional Chinese drawing technique with the use of calligraphy brushes and charcoal powder. 

 

For much of the 1970s, while living in Jamaica, the artist worked primarily on drawings and produced paintings on paper using a combination of watercolor and ink. For Wong Shue, the life of the artist was two-fold. He described his personal belief system saying, “The artist creates the art, and the art creates the artist.” This philosophy enabled him to approach the creation of his artwork with complete freedom from the conventional restraints which too often restrict an artist. It resulted in a style of painting combining several mediums at once to achieve a look that is paradoxically both timeless and yet contemporary.

 

 In the fall of 1980, Wong Shue moved to California and set up his studio in Los Angeles. Between 1981 and 1985, he joined various artist organizations and immersed himself in the activities of this newly found community of artists. Wong Shue's contact and close interactions with foreign artists, particularly Chinese expatriates, soon had a profound and significant influence on the development of his painting style. By 1987, the artist's paintings had advanced with more than enough appeal to land him a contract with a publisher and art dealer. 

 

At the Los Angeles Contemporary Artists Association, which was an organization founded by Peggy Guggenheim to benefit beginning working artists, Wong Shue made connections and participated in his first group exhibitions showing his early works. During his membership at the Bunker Hills Art League in Los Angeles, from 1981 – 1982, the artist observed a painting demonstration by Ting Shao Kuang, one of the founding members of the Yunnan School. For the rest of the 1980s, he explored the non-traditional techniques that the artists of "The Yunnan Movement" newly introduced to the western world. Wong Shue was one of four painters selected to appear on NBC Television to display their work and participate in an interview. 

 

In 1986, as a member of The Cosmopolitan Artists Association, Wong Shue was selected for his first one-man exhibition, and his paintings were placed on display at the Modern Art Gallery in Los Angeles, California. The organization's membership included painters, sculptors, and printmakers from seventy-five different countries. In 1987, the artist graduated from Antioch University in Los Angeles after completing a Bachelor of Arts degree. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, ten editions of serigraphs of his paintings were published, distributed, and sold along with the original paintings, throughout the United States, Europe, and Japan. Exhibitions in the United States, Europe, and Asia brought the artist international acclaim.

 

Wong Shue's oeuvre, on a wide scale, consisted of a varied range of media from drawings in pastels; to charcoal, ink, and pencil; as well as woodcuts and etchings. His paintings included oil on canvas, gouache, acrylic, and watercolor. His more distinctly figurative works were often executed from a combination of direct visual observation with live models and images from his prolific imagination. Wong Shue's oil paintings and drawings continued to reflect his early, formal training during the 1960s at Kingston College under Professor Alexander Cooper and his tutorship under Chinese drawing master Alfred Chin in Kingston, Jamaica. From 2000-2023, Wong Shue made good use of his newly acquired etching press and a ceramic kiln that he installed in the garden behind his studio.

Wong Shue thrived in his studio in Los Angeles, producing figurative paintings, drawings, gouaches, drypoints, etchings, and sculptures. He was an avid reader, an incredible storyteller, and a gifted gardener who devoted his time and service to the Self Realization Fellowship in Glendale. He designed landscapes for dozens of properties in the Greater Los Angeles area and gifted his detailed drawings to the homeowners who many times, only later, discovered that a world-renowned artist had left his imprint on their lives. Adrian worked with detectives from the Rampart Division of LAPD to set up a neighborhood watch program in his community. He assisted with surveillance efforts to reduce crime and was helpful in improving living conditions in Los Angeles. The artist completed his autobiography, “Sojourn: The Life of a Working Artist” and was in the process of searching for an editor and publisher when he fell ill. The book describes his early childhood years on the island of Jamaica. It details how he came to America, as well as his travels through Brazil and Asia and the impact those experiences had on the development of his work. 

In November 2022, Adrian had an emergency health crisis. He underwent surgery, was in and out of ICU for over a year, and struggled with his recovery. Our beloved friend, Adrian Wong Shue, passed away on the morning of December 12, 2023. Adrian touched each one of us in so many beautiful ways, through his artistic talents, through his love of nature, and with his storytelling. Adrian is survived by three children, Anthony [Lisa] Wong Shue, Jonathan [Andrea] Wong Shue, and Tabitha [Duane] Wong Shue-Virtue, along with eight grandchildren and two great-granddaughters. He is sorely missed by his family, friends, fans, and fellow SRF worshippers.