Femininity in Contemporary Art
Artists:Folk Artist Ku Shulan(1920-2004) & Contemporary Artists Xie Zhongxia,Yang Jing, Yang Dazhi, Liu Ruizhao, Zhou Qinshan, Zhou Chunyan, Lou Hong etc.
Curator: Tony Chang
Ku Shulan was an ordinary peasant woman in
Shaanxi folk society, who lived a whole bleak life of poverty and indulged
herself in creating colored paper-cutting art works in her later years.
Known as the "Oriental Matisse", her pure and simple art works
intertwined the original folk themes with her personal life experience,
revealing a stunning self-fantasy, building a harmonious female spiritual
illusion longing for an ideal pastoral life with favorable weather and
ample food and clothing. The female bodies in her works were exaggerated
and distorted like a fertile mother pregnant with all things grow and
seasons change; the simplified faces have symbolic mask features; the
patterns of flowers, figures and animals were warmly mixed. Yet the contemporary
artists grew up in homogeneous urban environment. They capture inspirations
from their personal life, cultural classics, historical memories and fairy
legends. Immersed in the depths of female consciousness this is more private,
complicated and irrational; youthful chaste accompanied with inexplicable
loneliness; sensitive, depressed but blended with aesthetic vision, their
works generate a tension in the resonance and differences of Ku Shulan's
perfect and innocent spiritual world.
Ku Shulan (1920-2004), native of Wang village, Chidao xiang of Xunyi county, Shaanxi province, was born in a poor peasant family. When she was little, she followed her father to flee from famines and beg. Her feet were bound when she was 4 year-old; at 6 or 7 year-old, she started learning paper-cutting and painting from her mom; at 17, she got married to someone at Fu village of Chidao xiang. She gave birth to 13 kids but 10 were taken away from famines and diseases. Ku Shulan kept on paper-cutting after marriage to kill time. Early winter in 1985, Ku Shulan accidently fell in a ravine. Saved by others, she got seriously ill, almost unconscious for 40 more days. She felt hale and hearty after waking up from the coma, convincing herself that she got blessed by a spiritual “Goddess of Paper-Cutting”. From then on, she added a “Goddess of Paper-Cutting” image in every piece of her works. Long been troubled by pain in her old ages, on Dec. 19, 2004, Ku Shulan died at home, at her age of 84.
Ku Shulan is one of the outstanding representatives of Chinese folk paper-cut art. Her works are shown at China National Art Museum and the Museum of Central Academy of Fine Arts. In 1996, UNESCO awarded her the “Folk Arts and Crafts Master”. In 2000, contemporary artist Lv Shengzhong co-created "Spirits Evocation by Paper-Cutting" with Ku Shulan in the cave she lives in.