George School’s Surrealist Senior

Linglong Dai ’23, one of George School’s skilled student-artists, uses a scholarly approach to creating paintings inspired by surrealism. For Linglong, art has been an interest since childhood, honed through the intensive IB program at George School.

“My parents have always appreciated art,” Linglong said. “Whenever we traveled, they always took me to art and museum galleries. I used to love classical art, but my interests are quite different now. It was my junior year at George School when I fell in love with modern art. You can see an ideology behind the pieces, which is very powerful. I am living in the modern era, so the art is more relevant to me. I see art as a way of expressing your feelings in society. Most recently, I visited Philip Guston’s collection at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. I like the pink, neutral tone he uses to depict his vulnerability in a certain time period.”

Linglong has been painting for as long as she can remember. “I started painting around kindergarten, developing a childish style with crayons, colored pencils, and even watercolor. At George School, I really developed more formal techniques, using a wide range of mediums. I did not know how to use oil paint, which is a complex process that involves using a lot of chemical mediums to do things. Jō [Adachi] specializes in oil painting and I learned a lot of new skills from him. Jō really nurtures individual development in his students. We think about things we want to draw, and he gives us help along the way.”

“Students use varied mediums for their projects,” continued Linglong. “Today, we did our final art critique, and some of my classmates are doing gouache painting while others are using other styles, like acrylic painting. Jō works with each of his students independently to develop their work and provide some technical education about the different properties of paint and how to use it,” she said.

When looking into George School, Linglong remembers an Admission officer who described her as someone who learns for learning’s sake. “I really enjoy engaging in the process of learning how others think and learning how I think,” she reflected. “George School, with a focus on a liberal arts curriculum, really enhances my thinking. I absolutely love the arts. I like how IB art develops both your theoretical and analytical skills to see a piece of artwork and analyze the composition as well as find your own voice in creating your pieces. I am not a professional artist but really appreciate the learning experiences at George School that make me feel like I am working as an artist.”

As a student in IB art, Linglong has the opportunity to learn at a high level and apply the skills she develops in creating a final project. “I really like exploring the different artistic ideologies, especially those of modern artists,” she explained. “My favorite artist is Salvador Dali and both art pieces I chose to include with this story are influenced by Dali’s style. I am very inspired by Dali’s thinking that our culture is traditionally creative but that we are losing some of our creativity because of technology and that his wild imagination conveys his ideology in his artwork.”

“I consider myself to be a meta-thinker and enjoy thinking through many things about my life,” Linglong continued. “My artwork represents me in this way. My piece with the blue and black background is from my junior year collection. I was trying to illustrate the process of decision making. The black and white piece—which I am working on for my IB exhibition and is unfinished—represents how the pandemic has influenced me and the way I think. The painting, titled Revival of the Impaired and Human Efforts, was inspired by Dali’s Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War), which is permanently displayed in the Philadelphia Museum of Art,” said Linglong. “I could almost feel the sensations, torture, and pain the person experienced during the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939). I also studied Dali’s style of composition. For example, he uses a monotonic sky in the background to provide a contrast between the background and main subject. I chose to use the sky, which will be bluer than his as Dali’s sky background is covered in white clouds. The contrast I wish to create is to emphasize my concept of human revival.”

Linglong also incorporated a technique common in 15th century realism. “Jō gave me a book that he used as a young painter that gave me a lot of inspiration,” she said. “The author mentioned the technique of Titian. Titian developed the underpainting to see the contrast between different values in a figure, which helped me with lighting and shading in my piece. I was intrigued to learn more about Titian’s technical methodology in creating realistic classical paintings. Human eyes are more sensitive to grey scale. That is why I used black and white for the underpainting of this piece. I still need to work on coloring and for this piece and will choose more realistic tones. For the body parts, I am going to use skin tones and for the background, I am probably going with a shade of blue. I want to capture the feeling of seeing people in nature because this piece represents our struggle against nature during the pandemic.”

“Society and my place, the belongingness I feel, plays a big role in my artistic expression,” said Linglong. “I am looking forward to finishing the piece for the George School IB exhibition in the Spring of 2023.”

Revival of the Impaired and Human Efforts portfolio slides.