New Chinoiserie

ONCE UPON A TIME – Chinese fairy tales now continue with indicating the period of government, the province and the place of action. The hero is named. Often the fairy tale starts with a poetic description like “mountains in the distance and water nearby.”

At a mountain rising high into the sky once lived Daschëng, a handsome youth, a very poor and solitary life. He climbs into the mountains to harvest timber, finds a flute and plays longing melodies into the echo of the mountains. The flute and the butterfly fairy, a beautiful girl, belong together as Daschëng and the fairy soon belong together as men and woman. But then Daschëng encounters the turtle ghost on a golden bridge. The ghost turns the beautiful woman into a white butterfly. A hard battle with wild animals and dreadful warriors risen from the ghost´s bottle gourd must be survived and by means of the flute´s sounds victoriously brought to an end.

The fairy tales of the old China do not often find a happy end. The poor young fisherman who got the lotus fairy as his wife cannot withstand the temptations of the witch in the mountains. The fairy saves him the first time but the second time he has to die. From his grave arises the Mimosa tree, his transformation being the bitter-sweet end to the story. Ghosts and fairies act with the people, most often with the poorest. The elements play their part. Air, water and earth penetrate into each other.

When I begin reading these fairy tales I am ten thousand meters above the ground flying eastwards towards Xi’an, China´s old imperial city. The new other reality overwhelms me, outlandish and full of contrast. I dive into a fabulous world in old temples and necropolises, museums and gardens. Magic surrounds silk painting. Gates and beams are colourfully decorated with pictures and ornaments. Stones are designed ornamentally and figuratively. Moldings on temples, pagoda towers, balustrades, gnarled pine trees, soft swinging willow boughs reverse themselves in the lotus pond. In the mirror image the fairy tales come to life. Large lotus leaves sway on the water. Buds, blooms and seed capsules swinging in the wind, start to tell the story.

What is read mixes with what is seen and thought – it forces its way on the tender transparent Chinese paper. I adopt forms of Asian art, vary them and transform them into my own language of art. Carefully weighing the right consistency of colour and water, I use the familiar water colours on the absorbing paper. The pictures are not created illustrating the fairy tales. They are inspired by different scenes; they generalize and mirror the spheres of the fairy tales.