Thursday, December 3, 2009

'The Golden Paintbrush' Photos from the Mainland, 1999



The Golden Paintbrush. ‘Photos from the Mainland, Shadows and Reflections of an Era,’ in the Silpa Wattanatham column of Siam Rath Weekly News magazine, Yr.45, Vol. 37, 14 – 20 Feb. 1999.

China is the source of the flow of art and culture of the East. It still rushes swiftly forward, challenging the era and looking formidable when the dragon swaggers about, scaring everyone on the continent. The photographic works of 11 Chinese artists reflect the phenomena of a myriad of ideas, the power of challenging wisdom under the communist system which has allowed more freedom and a greater role to Western ideas.

The roots of capitalism, depicted as gnawed away and disordered, are reflected in many of the works. The imagination expressed has not fled away from its old place. It mingles with that place, with the honor of the Chinese nation and civilization, which has its own way of thinking.

Western culture has only been a leisure time plaything for Chinese youth in this era as they engaged in activities other than those of the governing classes. Otherwise, there are events such as bloody Tien An Mun Square, like Thailand’s 14 October [1973] event or Black May [1996].

Similarly, the plaything of Thai kids in their spare time is desire, arising out of the pleasures to which they are attached. They are caught on a merry-go-round of eating, defecating, sleeping together and procreating, along with an epidemic of drug addiction and the abandonment of the old culture in all its forms. Youth in Thai universities have been living that way for decades now.

The image, ‘You Are My Sister’ by Xutan refers to this situation in detail from every possible angle. The pictures by Zeng Guogu, the ‘Erotic’ series, tend to be less pornographic.

‘Unveiled Reality’ opens the curtain of reality. This is the concept of the exhibition. It seems to reveal things that are hidden behind the bamboo curtain. Really, it only opens it slightly. In any case, we get a good taste of it.


In the variety of his ideas, Wang Wangwang can make artworks that are very exciting. He presents a picture of Mao Zedong in a surrealist atmosphere, semi-fantastic in varied viewpoints, suggesting greatness that should be indelible, dangers of nuclear explosions, and a war which ends the world. Such surrealist pictures help us keep in mind the danger of people who thirst for war.

A picture such as ‘Rainbow 1’ by Qiu Zhijie is beauty that shakes the heart. The color of the syringes suggest the life of people who are tied to modern medical treatment (the aristocrats of the capitalist system). Forgetting the old life in society in which one depended on oneself, the life which supported our ancestors from one era to the next, the lives of people today are weakened because they cannot depend on themselves; the fever and pain of society wants to be cured. How many medicines are needed? In the end, one must die with nothing, in darkness and loneliness, as when we are born.

If you compare this picture with Thailand, it is right on target. Right now the country has 100 needles sticking into it from abroad. It is strung every which way with saline drips, measuring the pulse which seems to weaken every second, as if the patient is near death. The hot sounds of little children crying can be heard: the little ones don’t realize that in the future, they will bear burdens of debt for who knows how long.

An Hong presents works in a dancing rhythm within which are hidden the sexual desires of society in the ancient religious forms of the practice of Tantra, which thrives in Tibet.

The disgusting work of Huang Yan brings in corpses but makes us aware of the transience of life, or as the monks call it, ‘meditating on corpses.’ This is the kind of image which some people enjoy so much on the pages of newspapers and tabloids in sadistic murder cases, telling of the miserable ends of other people. Low minds get a boost from such things.

We are invited to open the bamboo curtain and to see reality together from 26 Feb.1999 at the Wityanitat Gallery, 7th floor, Management Science Institute, Chulalongkorn University.

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