Hui Su, Loo aka MadMath Su is a Singaporan Chinese artist who moved to Baltimore, U.S. in July 2014. She has worked as a middle school and high school Math teacher since her arrival in Baltimore, while completing a teacher’s certification program. Her name “MadMath Su” is a nick-name that evolved in the classroom because she often gives her students math drills called “Mad Math Minutes” in preparation for the lesson of the day. The nick-name has stuck and thus it has become her pseudonym. Teaching is an inherently high-pressure occupation and having students around almost all the time does not leave Su with much spare time. After school, there are always lessons to prepare, papers to grade, and student records to maintain. This high-stress environment in an urban setting and in which students show little respect for teachers finally drove Su to seek for a channel for stress relief. Little did she know that this escape hobby would soon grow into something bigger. It all began in June 2016 when Su started painting ceramic bowls, mugs and plates in pottery shops. Not long after, she was inspired to paint rocks after watching a YouTube video of Elspeth McLean, a rock painting artist who paints stones she collects from the beach. Baltimore is not located anywhere near a beach, so Su has to purchase her rocks from garden and landscape shops.
Without the ability to select regular-shaped rocks herself, Su often has to take do with whatever odd-shaped rocks she has purchased and work around the defects on their surfaces. “What challenges and motivates me in every new project is the ability to transform a rough, uneven and asymmetrical rock into an object of art and beauty”, Su opines. Since Su was a young girl, she has been obsessed with the rainbow and she loved to arrange her colored pencils in the order of the rainbow colors. When she paints her rocks, she employs a lot of vibrant hues to make her rocks pretty, cheerful and lively. Su often uses formulae as a Math teacher and she is rather organized and structured in the way she works. Painting mandalas with dots greatly appeals to her because they represent wholeness and have a distinct circular orderly structure in them. Besides mandalas, Su loves to experiment with designs and patterns by varying the size, arrangement and color of dots. She also enjoys arranging her painted rocks into spirals, circles, hearts, trees, double spirals, floral clusters and even forming letters. She particularly relishes grouping rocks with a variety of intricate designs, in graduated shades of a color family, with complementary or contrasting colors.
Su’s art studio is her living room, where she works on her marble table, seated cross-legged on double pillows on the floor with a large arm chair to support her back. She works on a stone or a pebble using acrylic paints, paint brushes and special dotting tools. After each piece of work is completed, it is sprayed with several coats of matte sealer. When Su has painted sufficient rocks to form a desired arrangement, a hole is drilled on the bottom of each rock. Then, glue is applied to the hole to attach a screw. A birch wood frame is prepared by sanding, staining and sealing it. The rocks are positioned on the wood frame to make the arrangement. Then, points are marked and holes are drilled into the frame. Each rock is then glued, screwed and bolted securely onto its respective hole in the frame. Su uses a burning kit to burn her pseudonym “MadMathSu” on a piece of leather, before gluing it to each wall art.
Su has made a 2×4 feet dark walnut-stained wooden wall art, entitled “A Harmonious Riot of Colors.” This art piece features a total of 60 stones, comprising a central spiral of 20 purplish-pink stones, and four clusters of 10 stones in red, orange, blue and green. Another wall art, entitled “Cool Ocean Breeze,” comprises a spiral of 20 stones and pebbles in hues of blue and green, mounted on a 21×18 IN golden pecan wooden frame. The third wall art, entitled “Warm Golden Sun,” comprises 20 stones and pebbles in shades of red, orange and yellow in a spiral arrangement, mounted on a 21×18 IN dark walnut wooden frame. “I enjoy creating these unique wall art conversation pieces a lot. Not only is each one of them a visual feast with its vibrant colors and varied intricate designs, but also a tactile feast with its three-dimensional and textural rocks. Each stone and pebble invites one to touch and feel the textures formed by the many dots,” Su gushes. MadMath Su’s painting journey continues as she searches for more diverse dot designs, rock arrangements and color combinations, while experimenting with different wooden frames and stains to enhance the display of these beautiful rock arrangements.