First Art, then Great Art

Not Great Art


By Ernie Diaz


Great art defies explanation, defies the rational. If it didn’t, we could burn all the paint brushes to keep our cell-phone cameras cozy and warm.  So when the Amelie Gallery calls its current Pink Exhibition “Feminist-Themed Art”, the pieces are compromised by categorization. “Abstract” and “Chinese contemporary” come dangerously close enough to setting an agenda that keeps artists cubicled. That agenda makes it very hard to turn out work with authenticity. The same logic applies if you’re hungry in China and see a sign for “Western-style Food”.


If China Expat does more than open articles pretentiously, then great art indeed defies explanation and rationalization. Ergo, the easier it is explained and rationalized, the less great it is. Let’s see how easy…




Fruit, Liu Ruizhao

After a quick shudder at the subject’s Children of the Corn stare, the eye is immediately drawn to the two dangling, flowering apples. Genitals and forbidden “tree” of knowledge in one…good, good. Virginal colors and children’s-book-cover composition to cloak the penis fixation…nice. Nice, but you’ll have to wake up earlier in the morning to fool China Expat. Next!




Girl on Horse, Lou Hong

Wait…didn’t we just cover this? Penis fixation softened up (or perved up, if this was by a male artist, which it isn’t) by infantile imagery. Next!…sheesh.




Pink, Yang Jing

Aw, now that’s cute – wedding photography jumped up with the pointillism effect. Hey, isn’t that effect standard in the latest version of Photoshop? Hold on, there’s also a very perceptible soupcon of Shanghai Cigarette Girl. Gives the thing cultural perspective and validity, you see. NEXT!




Room No.5, Xie Zhongxia

You’re on your Blue Period, got it. Unless you’re a Spanish alien, though, you should probably stick with the standard-colored period. But hey – you’re sad. That’s the hotel room, isn’t it, Ms. Xie. The one your college sweetheart finally talked you into, eh Ms. Xie? Do you wake up in the dark and hear the screaming of the lambs, Clarice, we mean Ms. Xie? Next!!




World of Separation, Zhou Chunya

Aha, pretty tricky. Because with the white barren surroundings and inaccessible green space, one can easily be forgiven for thinking “New Eco Art School”. But that’s no geometric rent in the space-time continuum. That’s a flask. Our children- girls too China! – are our future. Inspiring, good. A canvas is a terrible thing to waste. “She’s got the whole world, in her hands, she’s got the who-ole world,..”




Title? Please.

Say what what? Even the sacred power of sarcasm fails! We can’t say childish, unless we speak of a child discovered next to a smoking meteor, chewing jimson weed. We can’t say simplistic, unless we understand the divine simplicity of sacred geometry, and Baba Ramdev probably isn’t reading this.


They’re a lesbian godess couple, right? Sharing their bounty with the aid of diminutive but enlightened beings? Wait, then why’s the cock cavort at the feet of one, the pussy cat at the others? Gracious, is that a Serengeti loin cloth totem top center? We surrender! There is truly no explanation for this vision from a personal world too big to contain any Ism. That’s great art.




Give yourself a red star if you perceived that this is paper cut. Imagine the mind-set necessary to working those comfortless Chinese scissors so minutely. Or don’t. It won’t help. They’re not making Ku Shulans anymore.  Thank goodness that right now in the world, except maybe in Japan, no one is binding a four year old girl’s feet. Even more goodness that there is no famine to set a new Ku Shulan off begging with her father, a fragile leaf in a revolutionary storm. Thirteen children! Even the boldest peasants, furthest from the red armband, dare no more than three nowadays. That’s how many children were spared Ku Shulan, by the way, after famine and disease took their share.




She cut paper through it all, starting from age seven. Marriage to the loutish farm hand at 17, more time to make paper- cuts in bed at night. Setting up house in a drafty cave, more space to hang them. The ones she couldn’t hang she kept under bricks, away from the rats.




But these paper cuts we show you are the foldable fruit of divine visitation. One afternoon, as Mother Ku clambered about the loess scarp, gathering new rushes for to change her floor, she fell into a ravine and knew naught for 17 days. She awoke the Goddess of Paper-Cutting.




Woah...did Dr. Owsley ever pass through Shanxi?

Sounds like a reinvention worthy of David Bowie. Except Ku Shulan had no press agent. The woman didn’t even have a paint kit, put it that way. But she had her songs while she cut.



Ku Shulan (1920-2004)

I am the paper-cutting lady.

I go everywhere to do paper-cutting. Ku Shulan, the paper-cutting lady, cuts out of flowers a heart and a soul.


Who is the paper-cutting lady? Me.


If it is cut well, I’ll be happy.

If not, I may not be able to sleep and eat for at least three days.

It cannot be done well at night.

So I have to wait by the window for the daytime to come.


I asked the paper-cutting lady what type of images she would create tomorrow.

She told me that she would leave her images for me.

Then my fame would quickly rise.




Today’s school psychologist would prescribe schizophrenia medication to a new Ku Shulan. And who would have the temerity, the condescension, to ask the Paper Cutting Lady her views on feminism, to lay a girly load at her feet? Oprah? We don’t want a world that makes new Ku Shulans, although China Expat’s magic mirror portends one.



This entry was posted in Classic Chinese Artists, Contemporary Chinese Artists. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to First Art, then Great Art

  1. Terry says:

    classic, you are so wonderfully non PC… wicked writing my man!!..

  2. Ernie says:

    Thanks, T. That’s why I stay in China, far from the long arm of the PC police.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *