Recently visiting with poet-artist Lo Ch’ing in his Shanghai studio where he kindly gave me one of his paintings (“manyuan” 满园), a full garden, on occasion of the publication of my book.
Lo was just back from attending events in conjunction his “In Conversation with the Masters” exhibition at Masterpiece in London. Below are remarks on his work by Michael Goedhuis:
Ch’ing at Michael Goedhuis</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/gallerylog”>GalleryLOG</a>
; on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>
Below is my translation of an article, from the year 2000, written by Shanghai poet, abstract photographer (about whom I’ve written on this blog), and arts organizer Mo Mo. It is Mo’s take on fellow poet-artist Yan Li’s return to China after years in the US, among other locales. The original is a fine piece of prose in Chinese, and regrettably somewhat less than that in English. Nonetheless, it perhaps deserves the light of day. I’ve added a collection of Yan Li paintings, both from the series to which Mo refers, and from more recent work, to fill out the picture.
One day in the middle of the nineteenth century, a new machine came shrieking through, tearing open the once complete world of da Vinci, Michelangelo, Goya, Delacroix, and Rubens; the once complete world of agriculture. The steam engine came ripping through, leaving in its wake: A new black hole.
The light emanating through this hole then illuminated the canvases of Monet, Cezanne, Degas, Miro, Renoir, and Seurat, painters using vibrant colors to deftly depict the new world of the hole with peaceful dawns, quiet vases on table tops, beautiful women amidst afternoon bouquets, and the beach of La Grand Jatte. Before their very eyes a new capitalist world is drawn in by the steam engine, and the miracles of material objects are spawned by capitalism. The Impressionists are like children frolicking in the sun, a light in which even the occasional twinge of despair is spectacular: sunflowers of van Gough. Only one painter among them is truly aware: Paul Gauguin. Gauguin feels the irresistible pull of the steam engine. Instead of giving in, however, he opts to escape — in 1865 the painter flees to the emerald blue waters of the island of Tahiti.
Without a station or a terminal point, the flight of the steam engine is much like human desire itself. In a mere one hundred years this black hole swallows up two thousand years of material culture, and in its rampage Kandinsky, Munch, Magritte, and Duchamps gradually begin to open bewildered and consternated eyes. The Kandinskian lines and patterns form a kind of restrictive force endeavoring to obstruct the unbridled drive of the steam engine; Duchamps creates installation art in an effort to toss tangible objects across the path of this unstoppable progress; and the lonely Munch stands all alone beside the tracks hopelessly calling out: “Stop! insatiable inhumanity!”
A black hole.
World War I ….
World War II ….
A mushroom cloud in the sky above Guam ….
The pain of the wound in 1949 finally overflows the heart of Picasso, so that even he can no longer twist out his enraged forms. The crushed people of “Guernica” are the people smashed in the path of the steam engine, the very bodies rent asunder by the dog eat dog desires of humanity.
Spilling into this space is no longer oil, but now heroin, as the slowing steam engine celebrates its wild ride like the coming of the end of the world. The pain of the wound finally numbs Dali, whose hallucinatory canvases more than any other manifest the fragments of a world torn to bits under the wheels of the steam engine.
Goodness is in pain.
Truth is in pain.
Beauty extends pain.
And now, all around we see a wounded world. In the year 2000, after having been baptized in the experience of cruel American capitalism, Yan Li is one truly aware. He moves, however, in a direction opposite of Paul Gauguin; Yan Li returns to his country of origin, a place in which the steam engine’s destruction has only just begun. On an afternoon of a thousand sighs, a determined Yan Li raises his brush, and starts patching our world full of scars, healing our wounds one by one.
And you, do you still feel the pain?
originally published Coquette
June 1, 2004
text by Mo Mo
translation by Paul Manfredi
Going back through some word-image materials in preparation for revising a chapter on the subject, and returning to the work of Yu Huaiyu 于怀玉, one of the leaders of Shanghai’s poetry circles and, more importantly, originator and principal editor of Shigebao 诗歌报, China’s largest online poetry venue. He is also a visual artist, working in ink paintings.
Yu Huaiyu goes by the name “Xiaoyuer” 小鱼儿 ，or “Little Fish.” Somehow the nickname meets the man and the art 1/2 way, even if there’s nothing in fact in his name save homophony that suggests water bound creatures. His poetry and his visual work share a kind of cleverness, breezy, fresh, and often amusing. “Today I entered a Chat Room” is a case in point. My translation follows below, but preceded by two Yu’s ink paintings.
This morning I entered a chat room
Where I found two people
Me, Little Fish
And another guy called Everybody Else
I greeted Everybody Else
But he didn’t respond
So I left
Come afternoon, I went back to the chat room
And that Everybody Else was still there
I didn’t say a thing to him
and just left
Before getting off work
I went back to the chat room
and said to Everybody Else
Hey, old friend
Isn’t it about time you left?