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Paintings and Verses of By-gone Days

Author: Li Xu 2003

As one who lives with ease in the heap of musty old books and papers and who is able to find fund and inspiration in them, Mr. Xue Song has always surprised us with new images reprocessed with his unique style via putting together some of these by-gone day materials that seem to be loosely connected with the reality of today. In the past year, he has turned his attention to the cartoons by Mr. Feng Zikai, a renowned man of letters and painter in modern time China. It is his latest attempt to reinterpret the works of those late masters.

The cartoons of Mr. Feng Zikai are unique in the modern Chinese fine arts history. With the skeleton sketches done with brush pen, he seems to just pick images from daily life at random and puts them on paper casually. These pictures either borrow from the classics to hint what is in reality, or reveal profoundness in something common and trivial. Simple as they are, his cartoons make the audience to stop, gasp, think, and even sigh. "New Interpretation of Classic Poems" is one of the many series of works of Feng Zikai done in the Anti-Japanese War period (1937-1945). In those cartoons, he tries to draw out whole new meanings from some of the household verses.

Mr. Xue follows closely the style of Mr. Feng. Often his reinterpretations seem to be the spitting image of the Mr. Feng's originals, for Mr. Xue seems to have done nothing more than enlarging the pictures and filling in colors. Upon closer examinations, however, one would tell that Mr. Xue has blended factors such as classical Chinese calligraphy, brush painting and memories of colonial Shanghai into his works and those of Mr. Feng. The complicated and kaleidoscope effect, created with new approaches and innovations such as the employment of paper ashes to mark the outline of the figures, reveal both an sympathy and contrast between the appearance and the inherence of those reinterpretation.

By rendering the meaning of classic verses into cartoons during the warring days, Mr. Feng Zihai tries to either find a vent for his romantic disposition as a man of letters, optimistic and never-give-up patriotism, or deep compassions towards the nobodies in society. Mr. Xue Song's efforts in reinterpreting and repainting these verses, blended with sharp modern insights in the 21st century, reveal the same deep concerns for nature, society and the common people of a contemporary artist in an imaginative way.

Qikang Li, Shanghai
Midnight, August 20, 2003

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