Is it real or is it Memorex?
This was a famous ad campaign years ago in the pre-digital world. People recorded on Cassettes instead of using MP3 technology. The hook of the ad campaign was that a singer’s voice might hit such high tonal frequencies, that her natural voice or the recorded version on tape could each shatter fine stemware glasses. So when Ella FitzGerald crooned those high notes – and the glass broke – the tagline was – Is it real or is it Memorex.
Nowadays it is a whole different ball game. When it comes to what we see – be it movies, television, DVDs, or photographs, we’ve no guarantee whatsoever that what we see is the real article. Can you tell which of these is a photo of the real Hillary and which isn’t? Virtually anything we’ve seen in these visual mediums can or could be manipulated.
And that would be paint on a canvas. Oh sure, more paint could be added after; something could be painted over, something else could be added in. But at the moment you see it hanging on the wall of the art gallery, or in a museum, or in someone’s home – you’re seeing something real. It may not be authentic – forgeries are not unknown in the art world – but at least you know that it hasn’t been digitally enhanced.
I’ve looked at various artists and different artistic genres over the years; and I still like Classic Realism the best. You know what that is don’t you? It’s the blending of paints on a canvas with near photo realism to at least the main parts of the painting. Today we’ll have a look at a husband and wife team from China. He’s Xie Qiu Wa, and her name is Dong Wen Jie. Their specialty? Portraits of stunning women.
Xie’s reputation has reached international levels. His method of detailed photo-realism in his paintings, while rooted in variations of 19th Century Chinese classics, has its uniqueness in the interplay of light and shadow. Look at this one called Evening Glance.
Notice the dual light sources: the left side of her face and her right arm and shoulder are well lit. The background has that painterly fall-back of lacking details. Yet the pattern of her dress is perfectly executed.
And this one called Sunset Thoughts; the model is lighted from the opposite side and indirectly from the front but slightly off to one side. Look how her face is partially lighted. Her beauty is enhanced by the warmth of the light.
Rose Garden is a profile and unlike the first two is outdoors. The model’s face is directly facing the light as she is slightly facing toward her right. The right shoulder and the trim of her dress conveys the same information. Notice the drop-pearl earring, and the flowered hair clasp. Just superb.
His wife Dong Wen Jie is also known in art circles as Angel. Her work is less concerned with lighting and has greater orientation toward details. Her subjects are often beautiful courtesans wearing period costumes. This is a bygone era of China and reflects the combination of both hope and darkness.
In Forest Sounds we can consider the exquisite detail of the model’s gown, the stones in the creek, as well as bridge planks which become the path up the hill.
In Turn of the Season, we see a similar dress, the same musical instrument, a better maintained bridge with greater detail of the bark of the railing.
Finally, this one is called Meandering Thoughts (above). The heavily brocaded red dresses have become a light and airy silken affair. The planks are still rough hewn, but note how the path up the hillside is overgrown and losing a battle to the local grasses and moss. These are marvelously realized concepts and truly a treat for the eyes.
Husband Xie also utilizes similar themes. Look at Lakeside at Dusk (below). Once again there’s a cheongsam dress, a river or stream with a rough hewn bridge spanning over the water. Notice the silk wrap she carries with its different hues. And the patterned nail placements holding the bridge together.
In Moonlight Flute (below), Xie makes the light source shimmer on the water. Check out the indirect light in her lap as well as how the light plays on the right side of her hair. When you notice these small details the paintings just get even more interesting.
Dong’s Westlake Note (above) incorporates many of her husband’s trademarks. The light plays on the water. Part of her face has the better lighting, and the background lacks detail. There’s a colorful ornament in her hair.
Okay the last two –
Xie’s masterpiece is Hidden Thoughts. The light source is behind the model and to the right. Her right cheek is highlighted. And the light makes the bright colors of the bedding seem warm and rich. I think this is just a gorgeous woman made even more beautiful because the artist deployed the light so well.
Our last one from Dong is Ponder. The model wears flowers in her hair; likely she awaits her lover. The red of her lipstick gloss on her lips is so rich and deep. And in a wonderful touch, Dong has given the model a velvet top with huge cuffs.
Here is a photo of Dong Wen Jie. She only has to pin up her air and she could be a model for her husband’s art. Her art is filled with elegance as well as modesty, and she is garnering fans in the west in ever increasing numbers.
Xie Qiu Wa is doing his best to help his wife as an artistic mentor. All the while his work maintains the play between light and shadow. He is steadfast in one regard. He refuses to have any of his painting reproduced in lithographs or giclee (pronounced zhee-CLAY) prints. His works are one of a kind and aren’t going to show up in a calendar that you can buy at Amazon.com
Visit a museum today, or follow the crowds and shop for some art this weekend, like the people in this marvelous painting by Min Ma. He calls it Saturday Afternoon.
And I’m going to call it a day. This is JustMeMike, and that’s a wrap!