Humanity is lonely.
It is easy to imagine how lonely humans are, as long as we take a look at how lonely the earth is in the universe.
Viewing the same painting, different people will react with different emtions. Loneliness like thick fog surrounded me when I viewed Mrs. Erjun Zhao’s human figure series “Black and White”.
When I saw Mr. Zhang Xiaogang’s “Old Photos” painting series for the first time, I felt the fear and loneliness of the Chinese people in the old days; and when I saw Mrs. Erjun Zhao’s “Black & White” series, I felt the loneliness and fear of all mankind.
Erjun Zhao injects such loneliness into her human figures.
Although there have been many excellent human figure paintings throughout the history of art, Erjun Zhao’s “Black & White” series is still astonishing.
There are many painters who paint human figures. But they lack the keenness and sensitivity that Erjun Zhao puts into her human figures, especially into her male figures. She touched energy and emotion from every tender curve on the human body.
I told a painter that if you wanted to paint a female figure well, you could imagine that the paint brush is your finger touching the woman’s body. The key is to express the sensation of touching through the canvas.
Erjun Zhao recounted uttering almost exactly the same words to students when she taught them how to sketch human figures.
Erjun Zhao paints figures, especially male figures, perfectly. I do not think that her figure paintings contain much sexual ardor, but instead I think they are full of sensibility and fantastic, imaginative imagery. After experiencing much chagrin and loss in her life, she has finally found such nicety in the land of the living. Enjoying such nicety, she placates her heart to get away from damage. In the Old Testament book “Song of Songs”, a bride sang about the bridegroom: “his hairs are like waves, black like corbie’s feathers. His eyes are like pigeons along the brook……. his cheeks are adorable like gardens…….. his lips are like lilies……… his hands are elegant……… his figure is like smooth ivory……. he is so charming.
The connotation in the painting that inspired me is not even that the figures bond with her perfect painting skills and sensitive feelings, but it is in the tragic atmosphere she creates in the painting.
She puts beautiful imagery and lonely-heartedness together into a picture as a master of tragedy. The real tragedy is to witness the finest things in life be destroyed and to feel the attendant helplessness and sorrow.
To bemoan the state of the universe and feel compassion for the fate of humankind are the foundation and greatness of religions, literature, and art. Jesus Christ suffered torture and mockery on the cross for being the sacrificial Lamb of God for humankind. This is a kind of compassion. The ancient Chinese sage Laozi, although he knew his words would fall on deaf ears, nevertheless warned his people in his work “Dao De Jing” of a plot by their cunning rulers to win their support in order to throw them into war and famine for their own profit). This is a kind of compassion. Even Picasso, though a playboy, bemoaned the state of the universe and pitied the fate of humankind in his painting “Guernica”.
My fondest impression of Mrs. Zhao’s work is the way she paints hands. Those hands are so keen and full of desire to feel the unseen space, as if searching for light, longing to grasp the life-saving rope, feeling for the road that leads home…
The hands she painted made me think of Michelangelo’s “Genesis”. Adam opened his eyes for the first time, feebly reclining, reaching out his hand to God who gave him life. The painting is frozen in time at the moment before God’s fingertip and Adam’s fingertip meet. The distance between their fingertips becomes a permanent spiritual longing.
Without the God with the white beard in Genesis and with the uncertainty suffused in the atmosphere, can the living men and women under Erjun Zhao’s paint brush find their destiny? Artists ensnare viewers’ emotions in this way.