study II of qing dynasty gouache completed today / by Philip Tarlow


3:01 pm: today is the first day my left eye feels relatively normal, post surgery. further away than 3-4 feet , everything is sharp & clear, and the color spectrum seems remarkably vibrant. i set to work right away on the gouache i’ve been working on for the past 2 days: qing dynasty study II. after working on a 78x26” scale, it’s a strange feeling to be devoting so much time & attention to a 40 x 13.1 cm. study on paper.

it does feel resolved, and in the process i’m learning a lot. chinese painting of this period is rich in many ways; in term of color, patterning and feeling. in the panel i’m focued on, which is located in a corridor of the temple of the white clouds, in beijing, groups of figures, both men & women are interacting in a surprisingly social manner, and the landscape appears to embrace and caress them rather than simply serving as a backdrop. this taoist temple, which was founded in the eighth century, was where novices studied to become taoist priests. it’s a sharp contrast to the byzantine icons with which i’m so familiar, because of the many years i spent in greece, as well as my visit to mt. athos. whereas the byzantine icons are far removed from everyday life, this panel reveals an unexpected sense of warmth and intimacy.

to me, there is a clear and unforeseen relationship between this panel and, say vuillard or bonnard. in a similar manner to vuillard looking out his apartment window on a square in paris and painting the life he saw taking place as being one with the cityscape; the trees, shrubs, streets & buildings, this chinese artist has given us a feel for the everyday life in the environs of the temple. it’s not removed from that reality. if this image were animated and had sound, we might be witnessing the buzz of a day in the life of…