Sunday, September 14, 2014

Ladies from Shanghai

This post is based on a few things happening last week. I was reading Lisa See's novel Shanghai girls (to be followed by the sequel Dreams of joy). I can heartily recommend everything she has written so far, by the way - she really brings China to life (from the 17th century to the current age). Since there are several paintings by my wife in our living room with the same theme (Shanghai girls), I got the inspiration to photograph the book covers with two of these paintings. My wife liked the result, and asked me to elaborate on the difference in these two paintings as well. This was actually triggered by a critique in a Dutch newspaper last week on the current exhibition of the paintings of Marlene Dumas, widely regarded as one of the most important contemporary Dutch painters, The critic complained that the bodies in her paintings are not depicted in an anatomically correct way... well, in the same article he claimed that for that reason Isaac Israels was a better painter than his contemporary compatriot Vincent van Gogh. It makes you wonder why people get paid to spew nonsense like this to the public. Anyway, it reminded us of the criticism that my wife gets once in a while, because she tends to paint the figures in her work without a face (like the two Shanghai ladies on the left). No, this is not because she does not know how to paint a face, as the painting on the right proves. That one was painted ten years earlier, with the express purpose to demonstrate her ability to paint the details - but it is a once-off in her oeuvre. As an artist, she has selected to omit these details from most of her work, giving the viewer the chance to fill in the facial contours in his/her mind.