My first painting this year is this triptych. Of course, as it is largely abstract every viewer has free leeway in terms of interpretation.
I will take this as an opportunity to present my point of view, because if I can manage to explain the essential points clearly, you may look at Chinese art from a different perspective in the future.
If this interests you and you have the time, please look at the image above first and pay attention to what you perceive. Below then I list the reasons why I think it is worth being introduced.
I started with picture 1. Why? As most of you know I work on an exhibition on the topic Corona epidemic. As someone who lives in Vienna, I face the ball season every year – passively now. Many of you know the Vienna Opera Ball, but few know that there is a very large number of balls, a centuries-old tradition. Ball of the locksmith, the confectioner, the hunter … and for a few years even a Chinese New Year ball. Unfortunately, I am a poor dancer and would never dare ask a lady there to do a dance. But when I used to go to a ball with someone, I would do a few laps after a couple of glasses of champagne – in the darker edge of the ballroom 😊
It seems that this year most of the balls will fail due to the Corona crisis and that’s why I wanted to include this aspect in my Corona series. So that’s what came out of it, painting #1. A largely abstract work, but it should give an idea of the dance – not least because of the part at the top, which is reminiscent of a dancing couple. The colors are fiery and lively and yet a touch of morbidity floats through the painting because of the withered flowers. (The ballrooms are always richly decorated with flowers).
After I finished my first work, I decided to make another attempt on the subject, image#2, on the far right. I hope you can guess the dancer.
Number 3, the painting in the middle was taken last. There is a story associated with it, but it would be more of a confusion. Anyway, above all, it should help underline the morbidity and at the same time be a calm part between the two dominant busy parts.
Well, why do I think the work is worth introducing? The main reasons are:
In the last two years, I have created a new style that combines elements of Asian art, especially calligraphy, gestural expressionism, surrealism, and abstract painting … And developed my own technique with which I can implement my concerns.
Balance in Chinese artworks is different than in the West. I wrote about it in a previous post [The Principle Of The Balance In Chinese Painting]. The triptych as a whole is well balanced and each of the 3 images is well balanced in itself, even individual lines are well balanced. The painted areas and the blank ones are also well balanced.
There is a balanced relationship between Western painting techniques and Asian, especially Chinese calligraphy. Traditional Chinese concepts of painting and calligraphy as well as philosophy (Daoism, Zen Buddhism) merge with modern concepts of Western art (asemic writing, gestural expression).
Chinese art is always about what we in the West vaguely know as yin :: yang. It is playing with opposites like white :: black, soft :: hard, bold :: sensitive but also line :: dot…(This would be a long story to tell and I will try it in a separate blog post).
As far as the painted areas are concerned, the construction of the triptych can be seen as a parallelogram that pushes toward the top left [fig1]. But as far as the void, the empty spaces are concerned, the force goes to the right. [fig3] In the overall composition of the triptych an eye can be vaguely recognized, in Chinese it is “the eye of the dragon”. [fig2]
As westerners, when looking at pictures, we generally focus on the places that have been painted, the existing, the solid. A Chinese lover of calligraphy, on the other hand, focuses on the unpainted, void. Using empty spaces correctly, i.e. assigning a value to them that is at least equal to the painted parts, and even more, to generate power with them, is an art that can best be learned and used when practicing Asian calligraphy. (More on this in my article [NOTHING – THE VOID].
Another requirement in traditional Chinese painting is to let the viewer wander through the painting. An earlier article on this [four phases in Chinese painting]. In ancient China, people read from right to left. Please try to walk through the picture from the bottom right. [fig4].
This path through the picture should be as long as possible and show different nuances of ease in moving forward and stagnating.
Traditional Chinese paintings were not signed with “painted by so and so” but were signed “written by so and so”. Calligraphy always took precedence over painting. Often the content is not that important (frequently it is just the same elements that are arranged differently anyway). What is in the foreground is the artist’s ability to master and implement the principles of calligraphy.
And finally, one more question that some people might ask and that I have already been asked before: Is all of this planned from the start, or aren’t there a lot of coincidences? No, not everything is planned. I have a concept or an idea that I want to present. But when I start painting “my head is empty”, as tradition demands. So is it a coincidence? Also no. It’s like the chemist who came up with a great formula “by accident”. If he doesn’t have a handle on his tools, the formula doesn’t fall to him/her either.