In collaboration with art critic Rob Perrée, Readytex Art Gallery has developed a new, informative initiative: An Eye for Art. Once every two weeks Rob Perrée discusses a work of art from the collection of Readytex Art Gallery. This week ‘Waterlelie II’, watercolor on paper, 79 cm wide x 49 cm high, 2008, by Ay Xiang.
Ay Xiang (China, 1963) is a Chinese artist who moved to Suriname after completing his education in his homeland. In his work he successfully attempts to bring the two cultures together.
The Surinamese landscape is usually his subject. In this, it seems as though he chooses those elements of the landscape that are characterized by subtle colors and color variations, and by special shapes. From the execution thereof, his Chinese background becomes visible. He works in watercolors on prepared rice paper. Pure pigments are at the core of his colors. Meticulous brush strokes are interspersed with drip-techniques. Ay Xiang achieves the intensity of the colors by applying several layers on top of each other. He also succeeds in making the colors almost tangible. As though they are lying on top of the paper. Details are very important. His works of art must indeed be the result of a lengthy and meticulous process. Traditional calligraphy symbols are almost always included. Here they border the work towards the right.
At first sight ‘Waterlelie II’ looks like a representation of reality. This is true only in part. It is also a composition. The way in which the colors are placed in relation to one another and the interplay between the bird and the water lily, are indicative of a deliberate arrangement of the various components. Due to its placement within the space – like on a stage – and slightly mobile way of execution, it seems as though the outward shapes have been given an inner life. Thus, reality has received tranquility. Restrained drama has found a way in. Chinese philosophical convictions undoubtedly have a great deal to with this. If you were to put this work next to a comparable image in a biology textbook, the difference would become apparent immediately. Xiang’s water lily transcends everyday reality.
Suriname is a melting pot of cultures. Because of their visibility (and audibility), exuberance and colorfulness sometimes prevail. Artworks such as those of Ay Xiang, either consciously or subconsciously, achieve a subtle counterbalance.
TEXT Rob Perrée, Amsterdam, July 2014
TRANSLATION Cassandra Gummels-Relyveld, 2014
Want to see this and other work of Ay Xiang ‘up close and personal’? That’s possible at Readytex Art Gallery, Maagdenstraat 44-upstairs, Paramaribo. www.readytexartgallery.com. For more information about Ay Xiang please visit the website http://readytexartgallery.com/ayxiang.
This edition of An Eye for Art has been sent as a RAG-mailing on July 30, 2014 and was published in Kunst en Cultuur in de Ware Tijd on July 30, 2014.
Because really looking at art and understanding art are not always obvious and easy to do, we hope that these regular reviews will at least offer you some insight into the process. You will get to see how a connoisseur looks at art, discusses it, and then links the work to others within the international art world.
Of course you can only truly judge a work of art when you are actually standing in front of it yourself. We therefore hope to see you soon in Readytex Art Gallery and are eager to hear what you think of this artwork, and which other works of art you find yourself drawn to. Please note that the artworks discussed are still available for purchase at the time that the review is published.
Rob Perrée is art historian and works as freelance writer, art critic and curator, specialized in contemporary (Afro-) American art, African art, Surinamese art and art using new media. His work has appeared in countless catalogues, books, magazines and newspapers. He is editor of Sranan Art Xposed, editor in chief of Africanah.org and a member of the editing team of Pf Photo Magazine. His website: http://robperree.com.