Sunday, November 4, 2007

Zhang Haiying

It is my belief that the formal language of painting should convey the content of the piece. But when friends of mine who have not education in art see a painting, they see the subject. To them the subject is dominant and the formal language is secondary. From my perspective it is the opposite.

The piece above speaks to me about the artist. The bravado of his brush strokes and mastery of tone. The language of the brush is seductive, but the limited content of the subject fails to take the piece further.

In New York there is an overwhelming amount of "content" in the subject of the art, but most artists here show absolutely no concern for the formal language of the work. For me, this work is largly inaccessable. It does not compel me to consider its meaning. So, what I'm getting at is, can a piece stand alone simply on its formal qualities or its conceptual qualities alone?


Jacques de Beaufort said...

formal qualities ARE content

great painting, where does the artist exhibit ?

Isa Tenhaeff said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
New York City said...

A agree completely. I wouldn't be a formalist if I didn't think that they were content.

What I mean by "formal qualities" can be observed in painting, sculpture, and writing... I'm sure you can find them everywhere, but these are the media that I have the most experience with.

Isa, I think you described it quite well: "what is said" and "how it is said"...

"Formal qualities" are visual motifs, compositional elements, line, color, form, and value, etc... the elements which speak to each other visually throughout the piece. The elements that create rhythm, harmony, dissonance, and are used to compose the work.

I agree with both of you, but what I was trying to ask requires perhaps a bit more background that I overlooked in my haste.

Speaking of painting, I prefer aesthetic formal elements and some kind of structure in a painting. There are many who throw all of these out of the window and by negating the visual interest completely. I assume their hope is to focus attention on their "conceptual content" and part of the content is negating visual interest. But this becomes redundant because it has been done millions of times.

Personally, I think this is not an efficient means of communicating. If the visual component is irrelevant, why don't they just write their concept down. At least it would be more intelligible.
But this kind of work does not compel me to investigate, and therefore, the content is not communicated to me.

What I was getting at is this: that is just my opinion. Do you believe a piece can exist solely on a conceptual basis, and if so, does that relegate the work to mediocrity? Does this work in the opposite case where there are only the formal elements and the content is completely formal. This seems to be a case where the art speaks only to itself and is equally unintelligible to those who do not know the language.

For example: my parents get nothing out of Rothko. They don't understand it. But I read a great deal from Rothko and I'm compelled to do so by the subtle formal qualities of the work. My parents know very little about art, and I have studied it for nearly 20 years.

Denise Williams said...

I do see something in this work, but one would have to be a woman to know it. What I see is how women are valued in today’s society. How they have always been valued throughout history. It’s the confusion I have grown up with, the things I have hated my entire life, struggled against to prove I have greater meaning in life. The things, as I age, I watch being shifted away from me and welcome it like so many other women.

Relieved of the burden, sometimes I wonder if I have any value at all now though I never exercised those cheap powers when I had them as I always felt woman is more than that, myself better than that, better than a cow, a hollow tube of flesh meant to honor someone’s ego.

Zhang Haiying’s work speaks to me of the demoralization women experience in all aspects of life. It’s a no win situation, do it and you’re a whore; don’t and you’re frigid. Either way you’re despised. This work demonstrates strongly how beauty is exploited, cheapened and distorted, leaving it without soul and never recognizing that it might have one above sexual purpose. It states how beauty may never actually be loved.

When you’re on the receiving end of always being the ultimate score for the first 44 years of your life, you look forward to the loss of beauty to age as you realize only then will you ever receive love in the way you are able to give it. With the loss of beauty comes the possibility of knowing and sharing intimacy. However, learning what you are, and your value, the fear of loosing your value, though you realize it was none at all, is immense but easily embraced as one does not like being treated like that: to live life used.

I paint for the elevation of women, a contrast to what Haiying depicts, the cruel reality of it. I paint to show a way to honor beauty, to respect it and to allow it to live.

I hate the words, “She’s beautiful, she can have anything she wants. . .,” and all the words that follow. No, she’s beautiful, Haiying depicts what she gets, only the beginning of the robbing of her life. Young women exercising their only power as all else has been stolen from them.

I know I sound like a woman scorned, but I am not. I still love, I understand, I hope to offer change for in the world Haiying illustrates, my child has no hope of knowing true and pure love for if he chooses a plain woman, no one will give her sexual value, and if he chooses a beautiful woman, no will honor her heart for she is only good for one thing. It’s not about that, it’s about love and the expression thereof. When one knows love, the world changes. I want a better world for my son.

I’ll take a risk and post this. I have never had an appreciation for how I was referred to in my life for not participating when I was young and beautiful. Sometimes I think as an old woman, I can reframe from comment, but I still can’t. So, I’ll take the label of dried up frigid old prune being jealous and left powerless over what I lost with age by stating the truth of what I see. The young girls in Haiying’s work deserve love, honor, respect. When they are given that, the world will be a better place.

Thank you Haiying for showing the truth of what we live in today.