Monday, September 23, 2013

Art Swap 2013: The Four Gentlemen

This week's Art Swap spotlights a guest post by Chinese brush painter, Erin Mapes.

I first started learning Chinese brush painting while studying abroad in Hangzhou, China. The university offered the class for international students, and I thought it would be cool to learn a new art form. It was challenging, but I enjoyed it because of how different it was from what I was learning at Bennington. Brush painting is a highly stylized and symbolic art form with a long and rich history. I love the simplicity, the color, the lightness of the strokes, and the difference from my usual artistic process (which is often complicated, full of uncertainty and self-doubt, and incredibly long).

My four subjects are bamboo, plum blossoms, orchids, and chrysanthemums. Together, they are known as “The Four Gentleman,” and each one is thought to have its own unique character:
Orchids ( 兰花,Lánhua) = Spring.  Symbolizes grace, virtue, and purity.
Bamboo ( 竹,Zhú) = Summer.  Symbolizes strength and honesty.
Chrysanthemums (菊花,Júhua) = Autumn.  Symbolizes moral strength and cheerfulness in the face of adversity.
Plum blossoms (梅花,Méihua) = Winter.  Symbolizes perseverance, rejuvenation, and hope.
I hope that gives everyone a new appreciation for this (really cool!) art form, and I'm happy I had the chance to share it with all of you!

Erin Mapes counts fiber art, painting, teaching, and Dr. Mario among her many skills.  You can view examples of her scarves, necklaces, and yarn in her Etsy store (currently on hiatus), or read her thoughts on being an environmentally conscious artist.  She currently lives in Berlin, Germany, in a neighborhood populated by aging hipsters.

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