Sunday, April 29, 2007

Chicago Art roplois :: Calling bad bad.

Having just attended Chicago's great art weekend, all that I can report is art nausea.

There was so much bad work being prominently displayed, that I feel the good work was overwhelmed in the quantity of horror.

It may be that it is currently politically incorrect to criticize art. When one is critical of `art' one is seen as being either ignorant or conservative and narrow minded and not open to `other possibilities.'

I think it is interesting that the same is generally not true in discourse about film or movies. A bad film is generally panned, and the general audience will vote with thier money as to the works success. The same is not true about `art'.

The singularity of a contemporary art piece generally gets it's value by the price willing to be paid for the piece. Many of the artist at the multiple shows had displays of `news' articles about the artist. Somehow this lends credibility to the artist and can create a paranoid insecurity for a person who might initially be turned off by the work.

I am not saying that aesthetic value should be based on democratic views,(as opposed to say the views of the hired publicist) since in general the masses are ignorant. But I do think that a consensus among an `informed masses' can and possibly should be taken into consideration for what is shown at shows such as these in Chicago. Perhaps there should have been screenings for what work could be shown. (I realize that the decision is made by the individual gallery owners who make judgments based on economics rather than on aesthetics- I am just arguing that the results of this system is painful.)

Worst of all, in my opinion, is that in many, if not most cases the artist know when they have created something that `doesn't work'. These artist use their justification that they are artist because they call themselves artist as rationale for believing that therefore anything they create is art. Someone needs to tell them that this is not so. Artist can create garbage that is not art- and they should know what garbage is- and not proudly display it.

And finally, as I finish my complaining- I think the shows should be held on separate days. The ground of the Merchandise Mart was not padded and one walks for miles and miles, hours and hours (added all up close to 20 hours to see it all in one weekend) - it was just too much.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Word on the Street - in Chicago is looking for your photographs from chicago

dedicated to giving a voice to the consciousness shift through photography

with links to over 100 non-profits and educational resources

The Chicago metropolitan area has a population of over 9.4 million in Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Artist Trai Escale favorite Art Qoutes

Trai Escale is an artist from Barcelona Spain whose work (example above)and ideas I like.

She has a Myspace at
And on his `space' he has a collection of quotes that `have helped her understand how she relates to painting'.

I post them here with pictures of the people quoted - gives the words an added dimension, I think.

Do you (the reader have a favorite inspiring art quote? Let us know.

To finish a work? To finish a picture? What nonsense! To finish it means to be through with it, to kill it, to rid it of its soul, to give it its final blow the coup de grace for the painter as well as for the picture. ...

What is a face, really? Its own photo? Its make-up? Or is it a face as painted by such or such painter? That which is in front? Inside? Behind? And the rest? Doesn't everyone look at himself in his own particular way? Deformations simply do not exist.
Pablete Picasso, La Bestia

Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things..."
Edgar Degas

I've been forty years discovering that the queen of all colors is black...."
Auguste Renoir

Art is not a mirror to reflect the world in, but a hammer with which to shape it.
Vladimir Mayakovsky.

The price of collaboration in art is — as in the concentration camps — excremental suffocation. It is not by submission, coolness, apathy, boredom that great art is created—no matter what the cynics tell us. The secret ingredient is what is most difficult to learn: courage.
Boris Lurie.

Il faut être toujours ivre.
Tout est là:
c'est l'unique question.
Pour ne pas sentir
l'horrible fardeau du Temps
qui brise vos épaules
et vous penche vers la terre,
il faut vous enivrer sans trêve.
Mais de quoi?
De vin, de poésie, ou de vertu, à votre guise.
Mais enivrez-vous.
Et si quelquefois,
sur les marches d'un palais,
sur l'herbe verte d'un fossé,
dans la solitude morne de votre chambre,
vous vous réveillez,
l'ivresse déjà diminuée ou disparue,
demandez au vent,
à la vague,
à l'étoile,
à l'oiseau,
à l'horloge,
à tout ce qui fuit,
à tout ce qui gémit,
à tout ce qui roule,
à tout ce qui chante,
à tout ce qui parle,
demandez quelle heure il est;
et le vent,
la vague,
vous répondront:
"Il est l'heure de s'enivrer!
Pour n'être pas les esclaves martyrisés du Temps,
enivrez-vous sans cesse!
De vin, de poésie ou de vertu, à votre guise."

.... and in english...

One should always be drunk.
That's all that matters;
that's our one imperative need.
So as not to feel Time's
horrible burden one which breaks your shoulders and bows
you down, you must get drunk without cease.

But with what?
With wine, poetry, or virtue
as you choose.
But get drunk.

And if, at some time, on steps of a palace,
in the green grass of a ditch,
in the bleak solitude of your room,
you are waking and the drunkenness has already abated,
ask the wind, the wave, the stars, the clock,
all that which flees,
all that which groans,
all that which rolls,
all that which sings,
all that which speaks,
ask them, what time it is;
and the wind, the wave, the stars, the birds, and the clock,
they will all reply:

"It is time to get drunk!

So that you may not be the martyred slaves of Time,
get drunk, get drunk,
and never pause for rest!
With wine, poetry, or virtue,
as you choose!"
Charles Baudelaire.

In Primal Therapy, and in any kind of awareness, you might have a person so emotionally engaged in something positive that when they leave the experience, they're emptied. That's exactly what should happen, in the best possible sense.
Joel Peter Witken

Si las formas diseñadas por el pintor en el cuadro no tuvieran repercusión, si, por ejemplo, mandíbulas con horribles dientes no asomaran del cráneo de Picasso para aterrorizar a quienes tienen la impudicia de pensar cosas respetables, entonces la pintura no serviría sino para evitar la rabia en la gente, como hacen los bares y el cine americano.
Georges Bataille, " The Lugubrious Game" 1929

C'est pas du vomi, c'est de la peinture organique !

For art to exist, for any sort of aesthetic activity to exist, a certain physiological precondition is indispensable: intoxication.
Friedrich Nietzsche.

An artist does not render nature, he renders visible. He sees what others do not see, and by seeing and rendering on canvas, paper, whatever makes his vision visible to others (if they are able to see).
Paul Klee.

Me acostumbré a la alucinación simple:veía sin la menor vacilación una mezquita en vez de una fábrica, calesas por los caminos del cielo, un salón al fondo de un lago; los monstruos, los misterios, un título de vodevil alzaban espantajos ante mí.
Arthur Rimbaud.

Why, after the great artists, do people ever try to do anything again? Only because, from generation to generation, through what great artists have done, the instincts change. And, as the instincts change, so there comes a renewal of the feeling of how can I remake this thing once again more clearly, more exactly, more violently. You see, I relieve that art is recording.
Francis Bacon (my dad!).

And yet, word is not the life. People talk just to attack something or to defend themselves. But the one who refuses talking... How secretful a picture is... A gleam... that cannot be explained.
The Overpainted Writing by Bela Bacsi

Modificaciones, transformaciones, superposiciones, pinturas sobre pinturas...en realidad no se trata solamente de una adición fantasmagórica de nuevos elementos sobre una base preexistente, sino del empleo de esta imagen como fuente de sugerencia, como un excitante transformador de un trastrueque conceptual y, también, como una base de imagen-color ya realizada que condiciona el resultado.Rabia infantil, impulso de metamorfosis,deseo de violentar la belleza establecida mediante la pluma o el pincel iconoclasta.
Antonio Saura (the great!).Superposiciones.

The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.
Marcel Proust.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Cuban Modern paintings:

Art from around the world: Cuba

Ramón Vázquez León

Ramón Vázquez León was born in Viñales, Pinar del Río, Cuba, in February, 1972. His studies in the visual arts began at the Raúl Sánchez Vocational School of Art in Pinar del Río. In 1987, he entered the National School of Fine Arts in Havana. He graduated in 1991 as a draftsman, painter and professor of Painting and Drawing. That same year he joined the Conjunto Artístico Integral de Montaña, for a period of two years. From 1993 to 1995, he worked as a specialist in the Art Gallery of Viñales. The artist currently resides and works in Viñales, Pinar del Río, Cuba.

Alfredo Sosabravo

Period: Contemporary

Sirena con Gaviotas, 2004
oil and collage on canvas,
35 1/4 x 49 inches

Alfredo Sosabravo was born in Sagua La Grande, Cuba, on October 25, 1930. He studied art at the Annex School of San Alejandro Fine Arts Academy, but is considered a self-taught artist. Sosabravo has won important awards in Cuba and abroad, among them, his country's highest cultural distinctions, the Félix Varela Order, in 1994, the National Plastic Arts Award, in 1997, and a Doctorate, Honoris Causa in Art, in 2000. His work is represented in many public and private collections and has been exhibited internationally. The artist currently resides in Havana, Cuba.

Experts say his work is inspired in nature, plants, the human body, birds and fish, as well as in uncertain structures, those uncertain, sailing, non static beings, which make progress amidst man's complexity, his luck, his fate and the human environment.

He's a completely self-educated man who has become one of the most important Cuban artists since the mid-1900s, still powerful and creative, taking part in every event and proposal, allowing his own temptations guide him along.

Human faces are either hidden by masks or bear amplified, generic features as if personality, too, were an illusion. Like Paul Klee's, Sosabravo's work is both consciously naive and sophisticated. Sosabravo has no brooding dichotomies. He, oversimplifies his forms, but, rather than purging them into abstractions, he fills them with pattern.

David Rodríguez
Period: Contemporary

David Rodriguez was born on September 13, 1956 in Sancti Spíritus, Cuba. He studied painting at the acclaimed San Alejandro Academy of Art in Havana from which he graduated in 1982. He later furthered his education at the city’s Graduate Arts Institute. In 1981, his works were among those exhibited at the prestigious National Museum of Fine Arts in Cuba. He has garnered several awards in painting competitions throughout his career including an Honorable Mention at the Literature in the Fine Arts Contest, Rubén Martínez Salon. He has illustrated for several cultural and literary projects including magazines, poetry journals and children’s books. The artist lives and works in Miami, Florida.

Roberto Fabelo studied painting first at the Escuela Nacional de Arte and later at the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana. Fabelo's most recent works in drawing, watercolor, oil, and installation pieces comment on the human condition, incorporating distorted human and animal figures into portraits and fantastic scenery. He employs elements of Expressionism and Surrealism in his work, while at the same time grounding the images in an almost academic and historical setting in order to question the division between fantasy and reality with a magical touch. His works are likened to voracious, insatiable mysterious, and unforgettable guests at an unending celebration

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Contemporary artist from around the world, Tibet's Ang Sang

Ang Sang

All of my paintings show unintentional emotion, painting to me is Buddha nature in my heart, which I admire and respect unconditionally. My painting is different from Western painting, which emphasizes realistic description or expresses individuality and so on. Also it is different from Chinese traditional painting. Rather it is under the premise of faith and devotion. And it is the art language of the spirituality of our nationality, I am trying to find out the common point between the ancient Tibetan traditional art and Western avant-garde art. My purpose is to set up a special art language and soul of painting, which is based on our traditional and folk art, and to create special artworks, which have both nationality and modern characteristics. The more it expresses our nationality, the more it will be international.

Nomad Girl / Oil on Canvas

Buddha Realm / Oil on Canvas

Shigatse Girl
2005 Mixed Media - acrylic and stone colours on cotton with block print background

Friday, April 06, 2007

Video: Banksy - Street Artist

Editors note: One of the top living artist today, in my opinion. This is a good video introduction to his work.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Self Portraits: Robyn Feeley

Cool idea! Attached is a new self portrait for an upcoming art show. The idea is to place myself into my art creating a unique view of myself as the artist
in the art.


The fall of 1963, Robyn enrolled in the Oakwood Preschool in Evanston Illinois. The program was rich with art, cookies, milk and the dreaded nap time. They studied the colours and patterns of the monarch butterfly and made ceramic animals that were fired in a kiln. Her first pet portraits began a few years later after adopting a neighborhood puppy named Katy. Since then…

Robyn has been delighting her audience with fun & whimsical pastel drawings since 2001. Her truly unique style captures the essence of each pet, with a whimsical sense of humor. Her work has been featured on Animal Planet and will be on Lifetime Television & HBO this fall. Currently her work is hanging in the Lake Street Gallery in Miller Beach Indiana, Topanga Canyon Gallery located in Topanga California and the Red Dog Gallery in Phoenix Arizona.

Robyn works closely with animal rescue organizations throughout the country such as Best Friends, Much Love, and the Miller Humane Society, with donations from the sales of her original portraits.

On the board of directors of the Topanga Canyon Chamber of Commerce, Robyn is extremely active in her community. Born and raised in Miller Beach Indiana, she now lives with her thirteen year old son Max, three rescue dogs and a miniature pot belly pig in the hills of Topanga California.


Robyn Feeley of bungalow art creates an amazing line of animal greeting cards in a style that is singularly her own.

Zazzle is proud and happy to be able to show a few pieces of her art and equally proud of her latest promotion to Director of Animal welfare in the city of Topanga in California. Very cool.

If redboy gallery sells any of her shirts the money will be donated to the animal cause of Robyn's choosing.

Robyn Feeley
Bungalow Art

Art from Around the World: Contemporary Chinese artist Fang Lijun

One of the leading proponents of the early 1990s Cynical Realist movement, Fang Lijun’s work encapsulates the disillusionment of China’s youth; a generation defined by the events at Tiananmen Square and China’s internal domestic policies. Constructed around loose narratives Fang’s images personalise sentiments of disenchantment, angst, and rebellion; his fictional suggestions conveyed through his illustrative style and re-occurring bald-headed protagonist.

Fang’s practice exhibits a rarefied technical skill rigorously studied through his Social Realist training; his combination of this aesthetic with references to contemporary comics, folk art, and dynastic painting characterise a national identity in flux, distilling a position of integrity from tradition and the modern world.

Fang’s monumental sized prints revive the ancient Asian practice of woodblock printing -- a complicated and exacting process of carving a ‘negative’ image into a panel, coating the surface in ink, and impressing the image onto paper; each different colour and tone requires a separate plate and order of printing. Due to their immense scale, Fang’s images are composed on several adjoined scrolls; the elongated strips create both an emotive fragmenting of the image, and create a reference to memory and historical testimony. Thematically, each of these prints describe the plight of the individual against the ‘mass’, creating a spiritual contemplation of solitude the quest for personal probity in the face of adversity.


China Daily 07/07/2005
Tan Rui

When Fang Lijun graduated from the print making department of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1989, he made an exceptional decision to most people at that time. In a time when the ideal, yet inevitable, outlet for college graduates was to follow the assigned job positions in various work units, Fang, at the age of 26, did not look for any work unit to take him on, but chose to be an independent professional artist living on his own.

In February of the same year, Fang, then still a student, took part in China's first national modern art exhibition in Beijing, during which he displayed, for the first time, his branded paintings of bald headed figures. Ever since, he has been pressing on with a personalized image of bald heads, both in his paintings and his real life. Nowadays, Fang Lijun has become arguably China's most shining "star painter" with successful popularity both at home and abroad.

"It (being called the most shining 'star painter' in China) has nothing to do with me. I am just an ordinary person," Fang said.

Born in 1963 in Handan, Hebei Province, Fang's life became artistic in 1980 when he entered the Hebei Light Industry School to study china and pottery art. In 1985, two years after he graduated from the school, he became a print major at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, where he met a flood of Western thoughts and images which led to a vigorous "new art movement" in the Chinese art circle.

Fang's art became more personal, tracking every step of his thoughts.

"The fantasticality of humanity is absolutely a huge convulsion and enlightenment to me. Humanity has always been the theme of my works, which I interpreted from different angles in different phases," Fang said.

"Currently speaking, my interest is in this aspect. Humans and humanity always remain a mystery to me."

As one of the early active avant-garde artists in China, Fang is widely labelled as the guru of China's "cynic realism," a coined phrase used to describe a small group of artists who take a playful, mocking attitude toward social life and issues. Whether young or old, students or peasants, exciting or bemused, all men in his paintings feature exaggerated expressions and all are bald-headed.

"I find the meaning of the bald head is a great and ambiguous thing. Bald heads are a bit rebellious, but also unclear. For example, monks, soldiers and prisoners are all bald-headed. The appearance of a bald head can eliminate individuality completely, which is totally different from our education. To me, the importance of a bald head is that it annuls the concept of a certain individual to manifest the concept of a person as a whole in a more forceful way. In art history, seldom did any artist bring the common people to the front of the stage," Fang said.

The artist, who has been sporting a shaved head since college, began receiving attention from both home and abroad soon after his art hit the scene. One of his works was even used for the cover of Time magazine in 1993. Fang found himself suddenly in the spotlight of the art circle internationally, and his works became hotly pursued by art establishments and collectors around the world. Despite disputes and comments, Fang proved himself to be a successful artist representing Chinese modern art with a high reputation. As time elapsed, Fang pulled through the phase of excitement and retained his understanding about success, art and life.

"Compared to my original painting intentions, many things have surpassed my original anticipation. The word 'success' does not have too much attraction to me. It is right for one to just live naturally," Fang said.

Like many other artists, Fang dwells in the so-called artists zone Songzhuang Village, where he bought a house and a two-storey studio prominently covered by flourishing Boston ivy. There, he spends his daytime leisurely, either painting, making arrangements, writing something, managing his painting and restaurant businesses or receiving an interview. Lunch is usually enjoyed with his family while dinner is often devoted to accompanying friends outside.

Different from the general conception of what a larruping life and attitude an avant-garde artist should have, Fang is actually quite "market-oriented." Apart from the wide employment of Chinese elements in his paintings to cater to foreign tastes, Fang also opened a stylish restaurant he regards as a media linking him to the real world.

"I work in the studio most of my time. After a long time, I feel terrible and a strong sense of crisis because a painter can become a madman. There isn't a social relation in that state, which means there is no possibility for others to correct you," Fang said. "But running a restaurant, I have to consider the cost and earnings. It provides me with a socialized space which enables me to be a natural person because you cannot take your art career as an excuse and reason to become a mad dog. Of course, the restaurant has many other functions as a place for me to meet my friends, to make money and to have food. It proves one's business ability and poses an important test to see whether you can cooperate with others."

As for the question of how an artists should balance between art and the market, he simply said: "To me, the market is just an additional value like the sound of wind when you run."

Cynical Realist Fang Lijun
by ben davidson

A fool is someone still trusting after being taken in a hundred times. We'd rather be lost, bored, crisis-ridden misguided punks than be cheated. Don't even consider trying the old methods on us, we'll riddle your dogma with holes, then discard it in a rubbish heap.

I read those strong words in a newspaper article long before I ever saw a Fang Lijun painting. The words are Fang's, as quoted in a 1992 article by China's leading art critic Li Xianting. Li declared Fang the most gifted of the nation's post-89 generation of artists he christened Cynical Realists because of their articulation of the mix of ennui and rogue humor that pervaded Chinese society in the first half of the 1990s. I still had not seen a Fang Lijun painting when a Beijing art groupie told me: Fang Lijun is great. He is the only great artist I have ever met. And he is also a really nice guy. Dozens of art critics, fellow artists and Sino-culture vultures speak of the 36 year-old artist in the same glowing terms. When I did finally see a Fang Lijun painting, I understood what all the fuss was about.

Schooled at a young age in propaganda-style Soviet Socialist Realism, Fang's draughtsmanship is impeccable. He can add a few dabs of white to a canvas of blue oil paint and make you see a swimming pool. Then and this is what makes Fang remarkable he can paint in a bald man, swimming, with an odd facial expression that makes you think I know exactly how that man is feeling, but what the hell is that feeling? If Magritte was a cool Chinese guy, his work may have looked something like Fang Lijun's. Fang's paintings give you a comic book feeling; they hint at stories but a narrative never unfolds. They are peopled by the figure of a shaven-headed man, alone or with a group of clones. This enigmatic skinhead hunches his shoulders slightly, and smiles, sometimes idiotically, sometimes as though he knows something you don't. On a canvas of warm yellows and reds, the skinhead scratches his ear and hugs a plump woman; you feel that you've shared an intimate but comfortable moment with them. In another incarnation in varied hues of gray oil paint, the skinhead sits cross-legged on a beach. His eyes are clenched tight; his face bears the frustrated grimace of straining against constipation. It is uncomfortable to look at but it speaks of a feeling that, if you are human and especially if you live in China, you surely have experienced before. I have an opportunity to meet this enfant terrible of the Chinese art world by tagging along when an old friend of his pays a visit. We drive east out of town on the whimsical sounding Jing Ha Expressway, through the grays and washed-out yellows of the Beijing suburbs to a small village near Tongxian. We turn off onto a small country road cluttered with tacky billboards and sprawling factory complexes. Peasants on bicycles and horse carts carry their implements of labor, children wearing yellow caps cycle home from school in noisy flocks. After getting lost a few times we find the address we are looking for. Pushing open a green sheet-metal gate, we step into a large yard in front of a box-shaped brick warehouse. Two Tibetan Mastiffs who are bigger than me come running for us.

Fang emerges from the warehouse and calls the dogs off. He is wearing Indian-style loose cotton clothes and a navy blue PLA surplus waistcoat. His hair is close-cropped but he doesn't look like a skinhead or a convict. Fang smiles shyly as we shake hands and walk into the studio that he built himself. It is a massive L-shaped brick and blonde-wood building with a loft in the short side of the L. The long side contains a pine desk. On the desk is a slim volume of Chinese history and what the marketing people call a home office: a computer, modem, scanner and fax machine. Behind the desk is a bookshelf holding art books and disorganized looking stacks of papers. Fang takes a fax off the desk and gives it to my friend to translate. It is written in English: an invitation to the 1999 Venice Biennial, a prestigious international art show at which Fang has become a regular feature.

Everything else in the warehouse is completed art or work in progress. A quartet of two-by-four meter canvases lean against a wall. Two of the paintings depict a man swimming, the others consist of groups of people stuck together collage-like against a background of deep blue sky. There is a blink-inducing contrast between the bright colors of these paintings and the brown drabness of peri-urban Beijing in winter, but the difference between Fang's childhood in smalltown Hebei and his current life is no less extreme. Fang's rise to prominence is a Chinese version of the American dream a tale of a young man who leaves his provincial hometown for the promise of a new life in Beijing. He was born to a blue-collar family in the small city of Handan in Southern Hebei. Fang's father was a cadre in the Machinery Division of the Ministry of Railways, but during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) he was classified as a rich peasant and demoted to the post of train engineer. The ten years of turmoil were not easy on the Fang family. In a short essay entitled Remembrances Fang recounts his experiences:

A lot of capitalists, landlords, members of the KMT and counter-revolutionaries were dragged out and struggle sessions started to happen all over the place. Being a stupid kid, I went along with the grown-ups shouting out slogans and was happy to go to every denunciation session. One day, when like before I was shouting with the adults for the overthrow of who knows who, my grandfather was forced onto the stage. Around his neck was a placard with the words 'Landlord Fang.'

This happened in 1968. During the next eight years, Fang Lijun was frequently forced to intone Down with Landlord Fang, a slogan that was also pasted by Red Guards on the family house. Fang was persecuted at school by teachers and classmates. His family's house was ransacked by neighbors and Red Guards. The surreal political campaigns of the time did however give the young artist-to-be some opportunities for public expression, although probably not the kind that Dr. Spock would recommend. Fang wrote an essay entitled Dickhead Confucius is a Stupid Pig that was well received in criticism sessions and at school. His cartoons of Lin Biao and Confucius aroused such public mirth that Fang's interest in painting was firmly established, even though his motivation at the time was to further the cause of criticizing an ancient sage and to propagate the thoughts of Chairman Mao.

The Cultural Revolution over, Fang began studying ceramics at the Hebei Light Industry College in 1980. Despite the unpromising-sounding name, this school was where Fang's painting and his ideas about art began to develop. He studied woodcuts. He was introduced to Li Xianting who had just been made the modern art editor of Fine Art (Meishu) magazine. Fine Art intended to publish some of Fang's woodcuts, but the magazine was shut down just after Li's appointment.

After graduation, Fang was assigned to an advertising agency in Handan. He continued to paint, mostly rural scenes depicting huge expanses of bleak land and sky, unpeopled except occasionally for a peasant and mule in the far distance. In 1985, Fang entered the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. If you have spent more than a few hours in the crowded capital, you will not be surprised to learn that people became a more important feature of Fang's work. His signature motif the man with the shaved head first appeared in 1988. Slumped and defeated looking, skinhead figures began to dominate the once empty landscapes. In some paintings, the figures look like automatons marching in unison; in others they appear to be posing for a family or group photograph.

Fang was still a student in Beijing in 1989. The events of that year crystallized some of his attitudes to art. In Remembrances he describes his feelings at the time: I felt the same suspicions as when I was a kid. I felt doubts about the same things that had troubled me before. I was fascinated by those people who seemed to be just fooling around. To make sense of other people, I concentrated on myself. After all, I was just one of them. But whenever I felt I had made some sort of discovery, everything would just become a blur again. That is when I began my work. Fang painted prolifically during the next few years, producing a body of work recognized both for its formal qualities and for its articulate expression of the zeitgeist. Much of that work was done at Beijing's version of Greenwich Village, the artists' colony that grew up in the area around Yuanmingyuan (the old Summer Palace) between 1990 and 1995. Fang was a leading figure of the Yuanmingyuan Artists' Village, but he left long before 1995 when the police chased all the artists away.

Painting is my life, Fang explains. The Artists' Village became too crowded, it got to be the only way I could work was to sneak in over the back wall and then not answer the door all day. The artists' colony was fine when it started, he continues. But when it got to be well-known and groupies began to make the pilgrimage, the sheer artistic ferment began to decline and it was time to leave. Sure I miss having friends around to drink and eat with when I want to take a break from work, but I do get more work done now.

Soon after Fang moved out to Tongxian (known by some as the East Village to distinguish it from the Old Summer Palace in Beijing's Western suburbs) to pursue a quieter life, he was joined by his former classmate Liu Wei who had also established himself on the international art scene. Since then, many of the artists from the Artists' Village have moved out to Tongxian too, but because they are spread out all over the county, a Tongxian bohemian scene has not developed. Which suits Fang just fine. He is not interested in schools or in labels. When I ask him if he thinks the Cynical Realist tag still makes any sense, he replies with a grin: Well, that's the name everybody knows, but labeling art is not right. Art must be original to be of value, and therefore defies categorization.

It is difficult to get Fang to talk about his paintings, although he is happy to describe the traditional woodcut techniques he is using on a new series of massive black and white prints that are to be attached to Chinese silk scrolls and exhibited for the first time at this spring's Venice Biennial. I ask him about his plans for the future but he doesn't really answer. I'll paint, play with my dogs, dig in the garden. The angry young man has mellowed, and gone back to the land. I wonder whether Fang's quiet life is a withdrawal from society, the traditional response of the Chinese scholar to the complexities of public life. He interrupts my musings by telling us that he has just returned from Yunnan. I smile: Fang will not be losing touch with the zeitgeist anytime soon. He was not alone in going to Dali and Lijiang this winter, just to hang out. Large numbers of Beijing's hipoisie made the same trek down south, for the same reason. Fang says Yunnan is haowan'r (fun). He smiles wryly as he talks about his holiday. The smile reminds me of an attitude that I see in his paintings, an attitude that might be the only sane way to look at China and the world at the butt end of the twentieth century: easy going cynicism grounded in the acceptance of a flawed reality. I look forward to seeing what Fang's smiling skinhead will make of the early years of the new millennium.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Turkish Artist: Orhan Taylan

Contemporary artist from around the world: Turkey

Orhan Taylan Art and essays:

On Contemporary Turkish Art and a Global Problem

.....I will speak little on Turkish art, and more on a general global problem of the art of our time, which I think will clarify the position of Turkish art in connection with modern art in general.

.....In the meantime please tolerate my insufficient command of the English language; and also my comments on Art History, and please take them as speculations of an artist and not a scholar.

.....Turkey, as you all know, is a bridge between the east and the west. İt is the Orient of Europe, and the Occident of a vast world of the East. İn the beginning of the century, it was a great empire that was defeated in all the major wars, and confined to a small nation state. İn postwar treaties Turkey was forced to abandon all its traditional social, political and economic intuitions and adopt those of the western Eropean countries. And then on Turkey was named among the emerging democracies. To deserve the title of an emerging democracy, all traditional culture had to be negated. When I speak of traditional culture , I do not mean a national cumture of the Tudks, nor a tradional Islamic culture. The traditional culture of this land is a combination of the religions, philosophies and the arts of ancient Greeks, arabs, armenians, Persians and Slavics of the Balkans and the influences each one of these had on the others. All that the intellectuals of this land gathered from so many civilizations, from so many different peoples that lived on this land was now to be negated. This is officially considered a reform. Turkey went through this negation of traditional culture very dramatically, and adopted the European institutions in all fields of social, political and economic life.. Tendencies of Europeanisation of the country had started already in 1830'es. And that is when the history of Turkish painting starts.

.....Yesterday, when I had some of our friends visiting my studio, some of them noticed a thick book called "the History of Turkish Painting", published by the Ministry of Culture. İt Consisted of paintings done in oil paint on canvas,in the European style.

.....İn fact, many Turkish critics agree on the assumption that Turkish painting in the western style starts with the depicting of shadow.

.....Shadow ( and perspective) are, as you all know, distinctive characteristics of the European renaissance. Turks, Persians, Indians, Chinese or Egyptians did not make use of shadow nor perspective in the European sense.

.....Shadow and perspective were problems of philosophy, of different ways of thinking, of beliefs.. A very interesting tale to clarify this point is in a recent novel of Orhan Pamuk; "My name is red". A young painter working in the miniature studio of the Ottoman Sultan in the early 16th century, happens to travel to Venice and see the works of the Venetian masters. As He returns to İstanbul, very excited, he gathers the painters in the royal studio to tell them of what he saw. He says "Just imagine, my friends, they draw a street and you feel like you can walk into it." The master painter of the studio answers; "We know about this new perspective style the venetians are using. But they do not know that when we paint, we depict the world from an angle that god looks at his creation, whereas the venetians depict it from an angle which cats and dogs look at the world." The excited young painter insists; "but master," he says "They even paint shadow itself. When they paint an apple, you feel like holding it." The Master in all his patience "İf the shadow was a thing created by god and given a meaning, then it would be a thing worth painting."

.....This is a very interesting tale to remind us that when painters of different cultures painted things in their own styles, it was not the superiority of one compared to the other, that differentiated them , but their different ways of thinking.

.....The renaissance with its new style, in fact, is a negation of all painting of the previous major cultures of Persia, India, Mesopotamia, China and Egypt.. These paintings used to be a painting of intellect. İt was what they knew and what they believed in that they painted. Whereas The Renaissance introduced a painting of vision. This aspect of the art of the Reniassance could also be discussed as a deviation in the history of civilisations. As the religious subjects of the dark ages faded away the masters of the high Renaissance like Caravaggio and Velasguez and Rembrandt, turned to paint life itself, and whatever was surrounding them. While European philosophers elevated the importance of the individual; painters discovered the correct sentence to go with it;"I paint what I see". Thus the freedom of the artist came to mean that he could paint whatever he liked-the way he saw things-, and be completely free from the Aestethical preferences of the community surrounding him. This subjectivism in art was convenient as far as the market was concerned. But , as time passed by, the art public became increasingly suspicious and unconfident and unsatisfied and at last indifferent to what is being done as modern art.

.....Today we have two main trends in what we call modern art. The more powerful trend supported by the art market is what starts with Marcel Duchamps and follows up to Andy Warhol, and conceptual art and installations of ready-mades etc. The other trend is weaker, but in my opinion sticks firmly to the depiction of human drama, and is represented by Matisse and Picasso.

.....The last twenty years of modern art -or we could call it postPicasso period-is often said to be "İn crisis". İn fact, it is going through a phase of negating the negation of the Renaissance.

.....Greenberg, the American critic put it very clearly when he declared that"the painting of our time is whatever is done on a two dimensional flat surface." Today, many painters all around the world are painting, not what they see around them, but their opinions on what they see, their thoughts, their fantasies. This is already a negation of the Renaissance culture. İn a country like Turkey, this means the negation of the official negation.

.....Now, parallel to the policy of globalisation, (if this policy does not turn into the invasion of the world by the American art market), a democratic trend in modern art is rising throughout the world. Democratic in the sense that the intellectuals and artists of different cultures are getting to know, to understand, to respect and to learn from each other. This is no longer the time of the rising of nation-states. This is leading contemporary art towards new universal forms of expression that are no longer national forms.

.....And this will create, all over to world, a new democratic culture, new ways of thinking and new forms of art. This, I believe, is going to be freedom of Turkish art, and all art in the world.

Orhan Taylan

Essay: Notes On Painting, Values, Success, Freedom Etc.

Nowadays nobody tends to believe that an artist without a fancy car could be a good artist. It might not be a car he is after but wings.
Would the total value of the jewelry worn by a lady who tries to despise sagacity and virtue, make her right?

Artists have always been empirically dubious in terms of succes. In their opinion, the contemporary criteria of success may not be in harmony - like a dress of a transvestite that doesn't fit the ground it's on- with their criteria of what is good art.
Success in our days, seems to be more reachable than ever. But the difficulty in reaching it lies in the fact that those who control the distribution of success are in obscurity.

Many young artists wish to come up with an art that is original, unseen and unexecuted. Whereas good painting does not really point out the theme or form of painting, but the painter. A persons’ self is particular and unique. The painter, while dealing with life around him, reveals himself.
The secret of the success -which is hardly an aim- of an artist lies in the historical overlapping of subjective and objective factors. This may occur, irrelevant with the quality of the art produced. Or, an artist may never meet success although having worked hard, if times are, let's say, times of a military coup or of calamity. But after all, does all this have much significance?
Where exactly is the mystery of a painting hidden? In the painting or in the painter?
Could an artist, hide behind his work? Could he produce an acceptable style that does not reveal his personality frankly, and say that this is his art?

An experienced artist will keep at a distance from his success. He will not let it predominate his work. Because success is conservative and stagnant. It is a plot against the development of an artist.
An artist will not give up his freedom for that.

Notes written for the catalogue of the N.Y. exhibition, sep.2000

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