Sunday, September 21, 2008

Visits and Revisits

Friday was just about the last day of Women Impressionists at the Legion. I went with my friend Judy and while the place was crowded, I did get to revisit several old favorites and refresh my memory about pieces that I had forgotten. It was a pleasure to "explain" painting to Judy who doesn't know very much about art or technique. I'm afraid that I held forth in quite the opinioned way; in fact, at one point, I had a bit of an audience. Some thought I was a docent but I had to beg off and say that I was just sharing my views which were informed by my current struggles with oil. I now notice texture against canvas and individual brush stokes. The pastels just amazed me (again). Pastel is a very difficult medium and her variation of texture and stroke is simply marvelous. The flesh areas are carefully worked but not overworked and there's a joyous bravura in the treatment of the background and the clothing. Later, we went for lunch at Burma Star - making this another multi-cultural day in San Francisco.

Yesterday, I revisited the Ming exhibit at the Asian. Like the exhibit at the Legion, this would close on the 21st and there were crowds but I knew what I wanted to see. I've been reading about Wang Hui, one of the most prolific and talented painters of the late 17th century and a star of the Ming period. I thought that there were one or two examples of his work at the show. I particularly wanted to reexamine the amazing large hanging scrolls, which are filled with the most exquisite detail. I found myself wondering about the process of painting something this large. I know about the materials, the ink, the silk and the paper but I could not find any information on how long the process took. I couldn't see any area which showed obvious breaks that can happen in any water based media. Yet, the wall paintings were so complex that it's impossible to imagine that they were painted in one session.

I thought about how tragic it was for China's future that she was not able to develop further her early scientific and geographic discoveries. I can't remember the name of the eunuch who made seven voyages all over Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean in the name of the emperor. Yet, upon his death, the emperor of the time closed China to further exploration. She was able to live on past glories for a couple of centuries but it's possible that had China been allowed to develop scientifically she might have been able to avoid the long disaster of the 19th century, the opium forced on her by British military superiority and the loss of so much territory to Japan and the European powers. Given China's tragic history vis-a-vis the West, I don't blame her current crowing over our misfortunes. I don't like it but I do understand.

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