Tuesday, December 10, 2013

"Arabesque" and Other Paintings Inspired by Literature

The medium or media we choose to convey our deepest feelings and expressions, etc., however competent, can never fully convey the whole complicated concepts our brain formed mysteriously, thus the endless striving to meet the challenge, to do a better job still in the next given opportunity, thus the hunger to develop and grow as an artist, be it visual, musical compositional or a writing kind.

It also occurs often enough that one form of artistic creation, spurs on the re-interpretation with another media of either the whole story or a fleeting moment, not necessarily to prove a better job can be done; rather, to add another dimension to the engaging concept while hoping to complement the original.

I have been stimulated, on multiple occasions, by novels I read, sometimes the whole atmosphere of the book, such as Blindness by  José Saramago, or sometimes, just a specific passage which may not even be pivotal in the whole scheme, such as my newly completed oil painting, Arabesque, inspired by a passage from The Known World by Edward P. Jones: "... looked over at the open chiffarobe [sic], whose door was broken and so would never close properly, looked at the black dress hanging there.  It seemed to have its own life, so much life that it could have come down and walked over and placed itself over her body.  Fastened itself."

Arabesque / 阿拉伯風 / Arabeske
Arabesque, Oil on Canvas, 28"x22", 2013

I actually was quite stirred by the passage and the image just flooded into my mind.  Incidentally, this painting also fell into a painting scheme of mine - I have been working on a series of "White Dresses", which I saw as both liberated and restricted, at once individual and impersonal, simultaneously beautiful and sinister.  Now it started the companion series "Black Dress".


Looking back to my paintings inspired by literature, my Grandma remains my best creation, which was inspired by few scattered descriptions of the protagonist's peasant grandmother at various phases of her long life by Günter Grass in his fantastic novel The Tin Drum (Die Blechtrommel) - her many layers of skirts, her peeling potatoes, the heated bricks she used to keep warm, again, underneath her layers of skirts.

Grandma / 祖母 / Oma
Grandma, Oil on Canvas, 40"x30", 2003

Grass's The Tin Drum also moved me to create another painting with his depiction of nightmarish book burning by the Nazis' - The Devil's Dance.  The archaic scroll with the proclamation of "Faith, Hope, and Love", I hope, echoed the perverse scene in the book.

Devils' Dance / 魔鬼的舞蹈 / Teufels Tanz
The Devils' Dance, Oil on Canvas, 30"x48", 2004


My painting Blindness, based on José Saramago's eponymous masterpiece, (originally in Portuguese: Ensaio sobre a cegueira, meaning Essay on Blindness), didn't depict any particular passage of the book; rather, I tried to capture a sense of displacement and bewilderment. 

Blindness / 失明 / Blindsein
Blindness, Oil on Canvas, 36"x48", 2006 


Similarly, the atmospheric novel, The Bells of Bruges (Le Carillonneur) by George Rodenbach, which led me through the unforgettable medieval city Bruges, Belgium, aided with my wonderful memory of meandering through the cobble-stoned narrow streets, propelled me to try to capture the stillness of the city frozen in the past, and underneath its calmness, as in any living place, the unquenchable quest for life's essence.  Nothing was more relevant than history.

Bruges, Impression / 布魯日,印象 / Brügge, Eindruck
Bruges, Impression, Oil on Canvas, 24"x30", 2009


Now, back to the specific.  I responded strongly to a passage in Europe Central by William T. Vollmann: "Have you ever seen an injured bird at the seashore?  Here come crabs from nowhere - they wait under the sand - and ring it round, cautiously at first, before you know it, the first crab has leapt onto the broken wing and pinched off a morsel.  The bird struggles, but here come other crabs in a rush."

This passage, to me, summarized the helplessness of the Europe during World War II, which, viewed through historical magnifier, the distilled essence of human suffering. 

Siege / 圍攻 / Belagerung
Siege, Oil on Canvas, 18"x24", 2010


Below is a video compilation of these paintings and their respective inspirations:

>> Video presentations of paintings and drawings, Part XXXII: 2013 Recapitulations - Video Presentation of Paintings & Installations
<< Video presentations of paintings and drawings, Part XXX: A New Video of "Liberation Road"

List of Video Presentation of My Artworks

Related posts on Art · 文化 · Kunst
- A New Installation/Mixed Media Work Completed
- A Still Life Painting, Two Pears, Completed
- New Painting "Lantern" Completed
- Painting "Surveying" Completed
- Niobe - An Installation
- Unexpected Successes of "Stringed White Dresses - An Installation"
- Stringed White Dresses - The Process of a New Installation
- One More Painting Featuring White Dress
- White Dresses - First Painting Finished in 2011

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