Still, depressing though my lack of serious progress is, at least tonight I learned the 4 character idiom for 'Be There or Be Square', which struck me as pretty hilarious. I cannot for the life of me imagine a context in which I might say to someone "Bu Jian Bu San!" - surely you would need to be dressed in rockabilly style? I am obviously now hallucinating, a direct result of reading too many dialogues in which lumpen foreigner 'Jiake' borrows a bicycle from that tedious bore, Wang Peng, and they cycle off together to yet another birthday party. These characters in Chinese textbooks live very indolent lives - party party party, wanr wanr wanr. I must truly be losing my mind if I am envying the strangely cardboard cast of characters that make up foreign language textbooks...
But you've got to love these 4 character idioms - my personal favourite currently is "Three men make a tiger" ( 三人成虎)
When I am questioning my sanity at persisting with the quixotic enterprise of attempting to learn Chinese, I remember that there actually is a purpose. In 4 months time I will be in Beijing, working on research for (I hope) a book, as well as articles and interviews with artists. I had the great pleasure the other night of meeting 2 very significant artists, Shen Jiawei and Guan Wei, both of whom came to Sydney in 1989. I will write more about their work, and Guan Wei's most recent exhibition of paintings, in another post.
On this occasion, however, we were at the opening of an exhibition of work by 4 female Chinese artists at SoHo Galleries in Woolloomooloo: Hu Ming; Wang Lan; Yuman Zeng; and Liu Haiou.
For the gallery web site (which really needs an overhaul) click HERE
|Hu Ming, The Deep Red Lantern, Oil on Canvas, 120 x 90, image reproduced courtesy of the artist.|
Hu Ming spent 20 years of her life in the People's Liberation Army, from 1970 to 1990, eventually becoming a major. During this time she saw the last bitter years of the Cultural Revolution, the death of Mao, the 'opening up' under Deng Xiaoping and the tragedy of Tiananmen. McDonald says, " She worked in operating theatres and morgues, she dealt with the bodies of executed criminals and dead infants. She saw so much of the dark side that her paintings now project a ferocious love of life." Perhaps this is why her paintings exude life and sexuality in extreme over-the-top abundance. It is a reaction to privation, uncertainty, anxiety and fear, and also perhaps to the enforced communal living with other women for a large part of her life. She says she finds women beautiful, and wants to make beautiful images of them.
|Hu Ming, Long Live Chairman Mao, |
image source: http://mlartsource.com/en/blog/96/hu-ming-redefining-feminine-beauty
Lan Wang was born in Beijing in 1953 and at the age of 16, during the Cultural Revolution, was sent to work as a farm labourer for nine years in the Great Northern Wilderness – 2,000km from Beijing. In 1977 she entered the Print Department of the Lu-Xun Academy of Fine Art in Shenyang, China, where she obtained her Masters degree. Lan then worked as an artist and teacher there for many years before coming to Australia in the early 90s.
|Wang Lan, 'Girl Leading a Horse', oil on canvas, 60 x 60, from the collection of the National Art Museum of China, the work was shown in 'New Horizons' at the National Museum of Australia in 2012.|
|Liu Haiou, 'Birch#1' oil on canvas|
|Guo Jian, source: http://guojiantheartist.com/Home_Page.html|
In any case, it's always good to see Chinese women artists, whether their work is contemporary or more traditional, given some recognition. In some ways the Confucian strictures still apply and things are still not easy. Women may indeed 'hold up half the sky', but it sometimes seems no-one is noticing. The verdict? Get along and have a look - 不见不散 Be There or Be Square!