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Posts Tagged ‘watercolor’

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Art: Liu Xiaodong
“Thank you 2020.4.9” (2020), watercolor on paper, at New York City’s Lisson Gallery.

People from around the world often perceive New Yorkers as brash, rude. But if you have spent any time in the city, you know there’s another side, a side that is helpful and kind, that will drop everything to give a stranger detailed directions to the Empire State Building or a place to buy the freshest lychee nuts.

During the height of the pandemic, artist Liu Xiaodong seems to have seen the generosity, humanity, and vulnerability of New Yorkers and to have captured it in his watercolors.

John Yau writes at Hyperallergic, “Charles Baudelaire said in his 1863 essay that the ‘painter of modern life’ is the ‘passionate observer’ who can be ‘away from home and yet […] feel at home anywhere.’

“Among contemporary artists, the Chinese observational painter Liu Xiaodong is the closest embodiment of Baudelaire’s ideal that I know. For years, he has been, in the words of Baudelaire, an ‘independent, intense, and impartial spirit’ who observes the ‘ebb and flow’ of the world around him. This has led him to set up a temporary studio near an orphanage in Greenland and one among Uyghur jade miners in China’s harsh northwest. …

“In 1978, when Liu was 15, his family sent him to live with his uncle, who had studied Western painting at the Jilin Academy of Fine Arts and had gone on to become the art editor of a magazine. His uncle taught him watercolor, and showed him the books he had about English watercolors, European oil painting, and the Peredvizhniki, a group of late 19th-century Russian realists who believed that Russia and its people possessed an inner beauty.

“The date of 1978 is significant: it is two years after the death of Mao Zedong, the end of the Cultural Revolution, and the Tangshan earthquake, which devastated the region where he and his family lived. Born in 1963, Liu belongs to a generation that has both witnessed and been directly affected by the convulsive social, political, and economic changes that China has undergone during Mao’s lifetime, and since his death. …

“His instinct to respond to what is directly in front of him with whatever medium he has on hand endows his views with an unrivaled propinquity. He is, to cite Baudelaire, at the very center of the world he is depicting, and unseen by it. …

“[A recent exhibition provided] a visual and written record of a specific area of Manhattan, determined by what he can walk to.

Liu made his watercolors during an extreme period in New York’s history, starting with the empty streets during the first months of the COVID-19 quarantine, and including the Black Lives Matter protests and demonstrations in response to the video-recorded murder of George Floyd.

“Even in this acute moment in our history, he is able to slow down his looking to find and celebrate the beauty of human determination, as well as recognize feelings of wariness and displacement. …

“The watercolor ‘Kitchen Paper cannot be flushed down the Toilet, right, 2020’ [is] a wonderful tonal view of a roll of paper towels resting on a toilet tank, a quick yet careful placing of pale yellows, blues, off whites, and grays. …

“[But] the range of subjects and views underscores a person who is remarkably open to the world, from a blooming tree, to children’s toys left at a park, to an evening view of the top of the Empire State Building, seen between two buildings, to a homeless man’s legs sticking out of a doorway. … You never get the feeling that he is looking for something; there is no hierarchy to what he chooses. …

“As Manhattan transitioned from the largely empty streets of the quarantine to demonstrations and large groups of police, Liu kept looking, kept going out, and kept making watercolors and taking photographs, to work on later.  His attention to detail, to the color and light, is masterful and precise. … The merging of mark and color, and his sensitivity to light and dark, feel effortless, though we know they are not. This is Liu’s genius; there are no signs of hesitation in his work.

“In Liu’s watercolors and painted-over photographs, the viewer encounters scenes in which hand, eye, and intelligence work in astonishing tandem. … We are the lucky beneficiaries of a vision at once candid and sophisticated, open and sincere, witty and compassionate — an unlikely combination in this dark, nerve-fraying, and isolating period in history.”

To see an array of Liu Xiaodong’s New York paintings, go to Hyperallergic, here. And fall in love with that city all over again.

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The artist I have in mind is four. Here are some watercolors he painted over a couple days at Christmas.

The Christmas tree is green along the left side, but this artist likes lots of color. He is careful to keep colors from running together and getting muddy.

He paints snowmen and people in twos.

The still life features a banana, apples, grapes, a pear and limes.

I love that over two days, his people evolved to have hair, arms and a discernible smile. I’m smiling, too..

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https://suzannesmomsblog.files.wordpress.com/2016/12/123016-snowmen.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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After Brian Bailey started to follow this blog, I took a look at his own WordPress blog. The first thing I saw was the watercolor below. I said, “Oh, wow.” Then I looked through his other drawings and watercolors and liked them just as much. So I want to share the Art of Brian site with you.

I’ve always loved watercolors, the gentle suggestiveness, the uncertainty of how the the paints will run. Although good work takes a lot of skill, there’s an element of the unexpected that to me is about the randomness of experience and the beauty of randomness.

Here are some thoughts from Brian on one of his recent paintings.

“When pulling together the shapes and lines that make up a composition it can be challenging to determine how much information is enough.  Some of my favorite drawings and paintings exhibit a very economical approach to line, saying just enough to let the viewer see what the artist sees.  In recent weeks, I’ve been doing many gesture drawings, as I’ve mentioned before, and I’m trying to let my paintings be, somewhat, more gestural.  I started my painting today outside with lots of light and finished it at home by bumping up the shadows and contrast.  I’m really trying to stop myself from overworking each painting.”

Brian also has an Etsy store. I am liking everything I see there.

Art: Brian Bailey
The Orange Van, Watercolor, 4″ x 4″, © 2015

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Art: Van Gogh
Moulin d’Alphonse, painted in Arles in southern France.

Once again, a master’s work has been rediscovered. This time the master is Van Gogh, and the work’s identification is all thanks to a sister-in-law who knew a great artist when she saw one.

Dalya Alberge at the Guardian has the story. “A landscape by Vincent van Gogh is to be exhibited for the first time in more than 100 years following the discovery of crucial evidence that firmly traces back its history directly to the artist.

“The significance of two handwritten numbers scribbled almost imperceptibly on the back had been overlooked until now. They have been found to correspond precisely with those on two separate lists of Van Gogh’s works drawn up by Johanna, wife of the artist’s brother, Theo.

“Johanna, who was widowed in 1891 – months after Vincent’s death – singlehandedly generated interest in his art. She brought it to the attention of critics and dealers, organising exhibitions, although she obviously could never have envisaged the millions that his works would fetch today.

“Le Moulin d’Alphonse Daudet à Fontvieille, which depicts vivid green grapevines leading up to a windmill with broken wings in the distance, is a work on paper that he created with graphite, reed pen and ink and watercolour shortly after he reached Arles, in the south of France. It dates from 1888, two years before his untimely death.” More here.

When I was sixteen, I passed through Arles on a kind of tour. I am sorry to say the only thing I remember clearly is that the teacher said you had to translate “to Arles” as “en Arles” instead of “à Arles,” as you would say for other cities. Only guess what! A quick Google search informs me “en Arles” is only for people stuck in the 19th century.

On me pose très souvent la question de savoir si je me suis trompé en disant à Arles (vs. en Arles). Et bien non, à part si vous êtes resté au IXème siècle …

David Larlet is the source, and I have no idea if he is an expert. I assure you I wasn’t 16 in the 19th century, but my teacher was rather old fashioned.

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My husband, who has made a lot of business trips to Japan (and also has been reading my posts about 100-year-old workers), pointed me to something interesting at the Japan Times.

Jiji writes, “A business project focused on selling decorative leaves for use in Japanese cuisine is attracting overseas attention to Kamikatsu, a mountain town in Tokushima Prefecture. …

“The [Irodori, or bright colors] project, which succeeded in commercializing colored leaves grown in local mountains and fields and now claims members from nearly 200 farms, has become a vital industry in Kamikatsu, which has a population of less than 2,000. …

“The average age of the farmers involved in the project is 70, and many are women. Some earn more than 10 million [yen, more than $100,000] a year from the business.

“Irodori members use tablet computers to check for updated information on orders. The leaves are grown in their own mountains and fields, then distributed to markets across Japan via an agricultural cooperative. …

“According to the Japan International Cooperation Agency, which promotes international visits to Kamikatsu, the response to its English DVD on the Irodori project was huge. It has been translated into Bengali, Spanish and French.

“Tomoji Yokoishi, 54, who came up with the Irodori idea and is president of the managing company, said perceptional shifts are responsible for its success.

“The project turned regular leaves into a valuable resource and turned its elderly into a workforce, Yokoishi explained.”

I’m guessing that the phrase “for use in Japanese cuisine” doesn’t mean anyone eats the leaves. They are probably used to decorate tables where Japanese cuisine is served. Do you think?

Read the Japan Times article, here.

Art: Elaine Richards, 1994 7″ X 10″ Watercolor Collection B. Riff

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