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🌸 Spring Flowers 🌺

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Date Minted: June 26, 2019

Artist Description: The Flowers of the Spring Festival Spring brings growth, and it’s always Springtime. Inspired by the pink flowers which bloom constantly during the springtime months, the flowers hide the beautiful woman beneath. The flowers represent the constant growth, which is sometimes messy, sometimes ugly, but mostly beautiful which is China. The beautiful Chinese woman beneath, is product of the “only child.” Educated in the west, they are intelligent, beautiful, and much different from the previous generation of Chinese women. Flowers, blooming and the powerful new sexuality of asian women seem to be abundant in Shanghai. Women born of the one-child policy find themselves in large families and are spoiled with the new riches of China. Some say they are too materialistic and become what some call “little princesses.” However, what an amazing time in history for this new type of Chinese woman. These women are well educated, and become more powerful in Chinese society which have been traditionally focused on the male counterpart. And how they can enjoy the fruits of a healthy life in the new China ! . This is the era of Feminism in the East. Painted 2018, recreated Digitally 2019.

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

Big Comic Art makes deeply, obviously artificial art. Their pieces are suffocated in crude animations: pixelated characters from old video-games, rotating Clip-Art effects and early Microsoft Word-Art banners, sometimes even Lichtenstein-esque Wam’s! And Bam’s and Kaplow’s!  All of these effects put heavy emphasis on frenetic movement, bright colors, and outdated renderings (with doubtless ironic intent). 🌸 Spring Flowers 🌺 makes substantial use of the aforementioned styles, but juxtaposes their punchy, kitschy, Pop-Art inflections with the dour, discomfiting, oil-painted figure haunting the piece’s midsection. And that juxtaposition is striking. It begs us to confront all the other, multitudinous contradictions that lie in 🌸 Spring Flowers’ 🌺’ artistic and thematic compositions. 

Contradictions aside, 🌸 Spring Flowers 🌺 is an avalanche of color and imagery. A large, bushy frame composed of digitized flowers —some pixelated, others overtly cartoonish, some spinning, some blossoming, some peeking in from the image’s edges and others falling from above-— surrounds an oil-painted portrait of a lonesome looking Chinese woman (at least, it’s safe to presume she’s Chinese based on the commentary within the Artist Description). Already the sheer clash of styles is striking. Each flower is less realistic than the last, leading us to focus on the overt and unavoidable artifices present in the piece, a method borrowed from Pop Artists in addition to their aesthetic, Warhol especially; that said, Flowers seems just as influenced by early internet Instant Messengers (AIM anyone?)and their blocky proto-emojis as much as by any given artisti movement. Like Pop Art for the flip-phone era. Hiding within this sea of flowers  —engulfed is perhaps a more apt word— is the woman at 🌸 Spring Flowers 🌺’ literal and ideological center, a black-haired lady whose individual color palette bucks the rest of the piece’s tonal congruence. She’s painted completely in vampiric shades of white, black, and red, with what could either be a shadow or a great bruise fanged over her right eye. As the flowers swallow her up, I’m reminded of Sir John Everett Millais’ Ophelia (1851), wherein the tragic lover Ophelia, of Hamlet origin, is depicted sinking into the black water she will ultimately drown in. There were flowers encircling her head too. 

Back to those contradictions.  🌸 Spring Flowers 🌺’ has all the cartoonish colors of Takashi Murakami, the gravitas and suicidal imagery of Ophelia, and a stilted, strange, and honestly-kind-of cryptic Artist Description about how “[Chinese] women are well educated, and...more powerful in Chinese society which have been traditionally focused on the male counterpart. And how they can enjoy the fruits of a healthy life in the new China!” The language throughout that Artist Description is wonky, the sentences overlong, the sentiments repetitious, almost as if forced. It could very easily be the product of AI-generative text. Depending on the artist’s ultimate attitude towards the Chinese regime, it could also be a representation of the jumbled dialect that often characterizes translated propaganda. Yes, I understand that that any misphrasing could be the result of faulty translation technologies or someone’s well-meant but ultimately-imperfect attempt at English. It would be fair to criticize me for such a reading.  But I think the central image here, of the somber Chinese woman, reveals a significant truth that the description, and the cascade of flowers, both actively attempt to mask. 

It’s unwise to descend into any real discussion of Chinese politics, but it seems clear from an outsider’s perspective that any suggestion of there being a sexual revolution among Chinese women, something emphatically suggested by the artist description and emphasized by the blossoming flowers (I’m reminded of the vulvar art of Georgia O’Keefe and Judy Chicago) is called into question by the pain of the woman’s face in the center of the piece, and the potential violence that was perpetrated upon her. 

The Description reads, “Inspired by the pink flowers which bloom constantly during the springtime months, the flowers hide the beautiful woman beneath. The flowers represent the constant growth, which is sometimes messy, sometimes ugly, but mostly beautiful which is China.” It seems highly unlikely that this piece would actually be attempting to depict the newfound liberation of Chinese women when there are such clear divides between the styles, sizes, and tones of the two central aspects of this piece: the flowers which represent Chinese beauty, and the suffering woman within them. The flowers don’t seem to be an extension of the woman, but an engulfing presence, burying her alive in a deluge of artificially-joyous imagery. They are, in number and style, impersonal. This is not Ophelia holding a bouquet of flowers, each picked especially for certain reasons (consult Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 5 for clarity). This is an oblivious explosion of color, so much of it that it becomes blasè from sheer bulk.

The woman, despite being depicted so darkly and drearily, still transcends her floral bindings and ultimately holds our attention. She cannot be ignored. Again, irony predominates: In a piece with so much color, movement, and verve, it is the sorrowful, static imagery that moves us, that exudes all this piece’s emotional intensity. This poor woman, trapped in a shell of pedantically-beautiful imagery. She’s told how liberated she is by the forces invading her immediate milieu, the confines of the portrait. It’s clear, however, that her actual circumstances don’t match that narrative. Nevertheless, this woman’s strength! To be surrounded by fake flowers on all sides, swallowed up in their stamens, and remaining still unblemished, remaining real. It takes great strength to remain truthful to oneself while trapped in a propagandist circumstance, especially if that truth is depressive. Does 🌸 Spring Flowers 🌺’ depict this woman’s ultimate loss, as she falls prey to a force more powerful than she can resist? Or are we watching her war against such forces, stubborn and with ambiguous success? Or might this be a moment in time, a snapshot of Ophelia, her face still stuck above the water’s surface, before it all sucks her down? 



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