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This page contains two short articles about L� Min, an outstanding Chinese female printmaker, written by Duan Xi and Jia Wei, two journalists and art critics from Yunnan Daily and from Kunming Daily. While Duan Xi writes about his first encounters with L� Min's woodblock prints, Jia Wei makes an interpretation of two of the artist's major art works - "Blue Airflow" from 1986 and "Clean" from 2002. We offer/ed them in our L� Min solo art auction # 140 in October 2004.
We thank L� Min, Duan Xi and Jia Wei for authorization to reprint the text in edited form.
If you are from Boston, Toronto, Oslo or Madrid, you may never have heard of Yunnan, let alone of Kunming. Yunnan is the most South-Western province of China, and Kunming is its capital, located on the same latitude as Northern Mexico. Sounds like a very remote place, a wild, deserted land inhabited by goats, cows and only few people. True and false. Yunnan used to be more of an outpost of China and many Chinese still see Yunnan as a wilderness area. Many centuries ago, Yunnan was even the homeland of a kingdom.
Today Yunan is populated by more than two dozens of colorful ethnic minorities, the Han, Hui, Manchu, Yi, Bai, Dai, Zhuang, Hani, Naxi and a few more. The province has a total population of 42 million people and the capital Kunming has 1,7 million inhabitants a large city by European standards, small for China.
Since the 1980s Yunnan has developed into a major art center for printmaking. We would even not hesitate to rank it currently as the most important and exciting one in China. Western art experts and museum people speak of the "Yunnan School". The colorful ethnic minority groups and the beautiful and diverse landscapes from jungles to high mountains must be a good ground for the development of the fine arts. The Yunnan College of Fine Arts in Kunming is the center of art training and exhibition activities.
L� Min was born in 1962 in Kunming and graduated from the printmaking department of Yunan College of Arts. Presently she works as a painter of Kunming Printmaking Institute and director of Kunming Art Association.
Dieter and Yorie
"The first time that I met L� Min was in 1997, at the fourth printmaking art session of Yunnan province. She was very pure, elegant and a little shy. The second time I met her, was at the seventh Yunnan art exhibition. Her prints "Dusk", "Clean" and "Green" enchanted my feelings with an easy style, simple colors and a placid mood. The third time, I talked with her intensively. And after seeing her art resume, I became her admirer. Although she is so young, she has created so many talented works.
It's true, L� Min is an outstanding female printmaker of Yunnan province. Her artwork themes are chosen from every instance of life. A scene, an object - they were taken so naturally, so modestly and at will, just like a sketch. Most of her artworks deal with the life of minorities and of border landscapes of Yunnan province.
Her expressive method is very decorative, and mingled with a little exaggeration and transfiguration. Her characters' arms and legs for instance are very strong, and that means the minorities are very sturdy and muscular. The background, no matter if a coconut forest or a banana forest is always non-figurative and fictitious. L� Min pays more attention to the "spirit" but not to the "form". She even uses different colors to have contrasting effects. We can feel her simple persistence and unadorned prettiness.
The composition is very simple and child-like. L� Min uses the technique of planar composition that the ethnic minorities often use. But she referred also to Western, modern painting techniques when she deals with the characters' posture and eyes' expression. She does not work with many colors, but those are very concordant and vivid. L� Min's artworks are very comfy, natural and childlike and without any heaviness. They give us a childhood colorful dream, and they are pleasing to both our eyes and our mind, just like in the clear wind.
Art's charm is to have some interaction with and receive some resonance from the audience. For some it is the shock, for some it is spontaneity in a gentle and mild way. L� Min loves Yunnan. She describes the local folk's ways and customs with careful, tender, simple and childlike style that especially female artist are capable of. She built her own art homestead and created a style that pleases herself and her audience.
L� Min is teacher of Yunnan Arts and Crafts school. After her work in teaching, she created many artworks, of which many were exhibited, awarded and collected.
We hope she'll have an even more brilliant future. Songs and romantic feelings with her all the way."
(edited by artelino)
During a long period, artists were ashamed if someone described their artworks as lyric. At the beginning, this phenomena was limited only to modern art, but later it took hold also of other art sections. It seemed that the artwork became meretricious and commercial if the artist called it lyric. The creation was not considered to be serious any more. Only when artists and their audience began to consider the social functions and the value of art, lyricism became a true and accepted feature.
I cannot imagine that anybody has a problem to "read" L� Min's artworks. Among the female printmakers of Yunnan, Li Xiu (note by artelino: born in 1943 and highly esteemed) was mentioned most often as the artist who created her own special art language over more than 30 years of creating art. But during the last years, L� Min, as an outstanding printmaker of the young generation, stepped more and more into the spotlight. Her artworks became familiar for an ever growing audience.
Since L� Min graduated from University in 1986, her artworks have been exhibited and frequently awarded at national expositions. Her characteristics made her different from other artists. Although the art of printmaking is limited by materials and forms, L� Min insisted to express her world of illusion with her carving tools and with woodblocks. And she has created a world full of fantastic colors and lyricism. What L� Min describes in her images, has to do with her life and her hometown - the life of ethnic minorities, bright and delicate compositions, transformed into an aesthetic abstraction.
For instance in her artwork "Blue Airflow", she turned a toilsome work scene into a paradise full of romantic feelings. This print image shows a typical scene in a tropical rain forest with the blooming forest and strange plants in the background combined with the posture of working people. The dominant blue color enhances the mystery. And the smart arrangement of red and blue colors expresses the working passion and the girls' breeziness against a silent background. In this artwork the artist used rather pure blue, red and black colors - almost without any halftones. When I looked more intensively at this artwork, I realized that the color tonality would have been incomplete if L� Min had not used the red color for this print titled "Blue Airflow".
The adventure in colors is a very important way for an artist to make developments in his art career. In another artwork "Clean", the main color of the background is still blue. But because the character's figure and mood are different, "blue" becomes a very sad color. "White" is now like a window to understand this artwork. It is the lotus flowers, which are depicted in white color. They form a very clear signal of elegance, just like blooming flowers in our dreams. I think there are so many things to see in this artwork. It has an abundance of symbolic meanings.
Whether it is the "Blue Airflow" or the print "Clean", L� Min's lyric is to describe a character from its form down to its heart. It is difficult to explain an artist's growth of experience with comments on just a few artworks. But taking the steadiness that she has shown as a printmaker in the past, we can trust L� Min that she will give more great artworks to the printmaking world and to all print lovers.
(edited by artelino)
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