In Chinese culture, Koi fish are revered for their spirit of courage and determination. According to a legend about the Yellow River, Koi that persevered upstream from the sea and then up-over a waterfall to the Dragon’s Gate would be transformed into dragons. In China, a reference to the successful Koi is often used to describe students, typically from smaller villages, who pass the rigorous national university exam.

This four-panel representation of the Koi transformation shows not only the writhing emergence of dragon-like tails but also the swirling movement of color and form. The dominate red-orange and pink shapes – typically female – are framed in a transcendent membrane of blue-green water.

In balance with Yin-Yang polarity, dark members of this composition swim silently in veiled positions. Male fish, demons or noble sentinels protecting the Koi? The painting offers us a chance to decide, the freedom to choose how we see it and what story we allow to emerge.

Koi at Dragon's Gate
Koi at Dragon's Gate
Oil on Canvas
48" x 138", Four Panels
2020