The Agora Gallery in New York City's Chelsea borough will feature the work of Arcadia artist Gabe Tong in Pathway to Abstraction. The exhibition will run through July 27, with an opening reception scheduled for Thursday.
Born in Hong Kong, Tong received his high school education in Macao before heading to UCLA to pursue his bachelor's degree. Here, Tong dishes to Patch about his health struggles, artistic inspirations, iPod playlist and more.
Which artists have inspired your work the most?
"Three artists — Georges Braque, Vincent van Gogh and Manet — have influenced my..work in cubism, color arrangement and impressionism techniques. They (have) also guided me in sketching and the initial planning to map out the final paintings."
In your artist profile, you mention your love of music. What tunes top your iPod playlist?
"I like to listen to Maurice Ravel's "Adagio Assal," (or) piano concerto "#G" by Leonard Bernstein to calm myself down after a long day's work...Then, I like to listen to Marvin Gaye's 'What's Going On?' or 'Mercy Mercy Me,' John Lennon's 'Woman' and Michael Jackson's 'Rock With You' to keep me going for about 15 minutes. After that, I just pick and choose what is next on the iPod."
What difficulties have you experienced with your health and how have those difficulties colored your worldview and your art?
"I have multiple congenital eyes defects due to malnutrition, iron and vitamin deficiencies, and genetics...Recently, I was diagnosed with diabetes, hypertension and mild congestive heart failure, which (have) complicated my eyes problems somewhat.
The eye problems actually helped me to work harder as an artist and also try harder to look for good representation for my art work."
How did you become an artist, and who (or what) spurred you to do so?
"I got my love of art (from) books, museum art works, Internet, art
classes and from my fellow artists.
Around 1969, (while I was) at UCLA, I was amazed at the freedom to pursue art in the university setting, in addition to my regular major course work. I started to paint every subject I could find...and I have never since stopped.
Back then, I enjoyed painting Chairman Mao's portrait and selling them each for $5 on the weekends. I wish I had had the courage back then to change my major to painting."
What did you study instead?
"I received my Doctor of Pharmacy (from) UC San Francisco. I have since worked as a clinical pharmacist in hospitals, owner pharmacist in Alhambra and now as a clinical pharmacist at Garfield Medical Center (in) Monterey Park with specialties in Adult Total Parenteral Nutriton and Infectious Diseases."
How did you come to exhibit your work at the Agora?
"About two years ago I was sending my art work on DVD to various
galleries...In summer 2011, I contacted Agora Gallery in New York and they were kind enough to represent (me). I have also done shows in (other) galleries, (such as) the Sandstone Gallery at Laguna Beach in 2005."
If you could have dinner with any artist(s), living or dead, who would you choose?
"I'd love to have dinner with Braque and van Gogh. I am sure Braque could guide me through his deductive sketch design, the reasoning behind his cubism works and...color design.
On the other hand, van Gogh could surely help me with subject arrangements, imagination, color mixture...and perseverance in pursuing art without any reservation whatsoever."