Why The Long Face? An Art CritiquePosted: October 22, 2013
I’ve known people who’ve said “I don’t feel like Chinese food today”. None of the people I’ve heard say that were Chinese. I’ll never say that either.
For some reason, after several thousand Chinese lunches, it occurred to me that Chinese restaurants are repositories of art. Most have some sculpture; almost all have at least one painting.
Today’s edition of my art criticism series takes on the painting that woke me up to the treasure troves of art that I’ve been missing.
This painting was created by an unknown artist. It is unique among the paintings I’ve critiqued because it is the only one rendered on glass. This allowed it to be viewed from either side of the wall it was mounted in.
From inside the restaurant, the painting took on a glow from the light outside. As patrons came and left, they cast shadows upon and through the painting. I’d like to tell you that the moving shadows caused a motion-like effect on the painting, but that wouldn’t be true.
The side facing the front door is different. The reflections of parked cars and passing traffic adds both texture and motion to an already busy painting.
A Deep Message
The painting depicts two groups of horses. The four toward the right side of my photograph are clearly running from the four horses to the left. Note the difference in expressions between the groups – those to the right are frightened and panicky. One of the frightened group looks over his shoulder to see how close the second group is.
On the left, the horses are focused, determined and fearless. They are in pursuit.
At first, the differing expressions and actions made me think that this painting had an anti-bullying message. The artist meant for us to see the dread in the eyes of what would be the victim horses as they are, once again, pursued by their tormentors.
I’m sure that as you read those last few sentences you thought, “yes, Oma, I see it now. It is very much an anti-bullying painting. I will change my ways.” If you thought that, you are wrong. Well, you’re not wrong to change your bullying ways, but this poster is not about bullying.
I know that because of the Chinese calligraphy at the top of the painting.
The Other Message, No Less Deep
What is really happening here is that the horses on the right have broken the rules, or perhaps even the laws, of horse society. Those to the left are in pursuit of the evil doers and will bring them to justice. They look fearless because their confidence is born of their just cause.
Look at the surfaces the two groups are running on. Those on the right run on a grass meadow. On the left, the horses run on the clouds, as if descending from heaven to take care of business.
The horse looking back from the group on the right recognizes that the jig is up. He is about to surrender. He realizes that he can’t possibly out run his pursuers because they’ve gathered tremendous momentum in their down hill run from heaven. His cohorts keep running. They are oblivious to the fact that they will be caught in short order…as oblivious as those two guys who escaped from prison in Florida and were sitting in a hotel two hours away from where they’d escaped from...but i digress.
Chinese is not my first language, but I’m pretty sure that the last two characters in the inscription at the top right refer to a “long face”. That inscription makes the message of the painting clear.
This painting is all about justice. Keep yourself out of trouble or you will get caught. Inevitably you’ll end up sitting in jail with a long face.
Behave, art fans!
See a bad painting that needs to be criticized? Send me a picture of it! If you know the painter’s name, please let me know. I am always on the hunt for fresh bad art.