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March 30, 2011

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Artist who loved women

WORLD-RENOWNED Chinese-American visual artist Walasse Ting is known for his sizzling palette and bold, vibrant paintings of women and flowers. A retrospective is underway. Wang Jie reports.

Bold and vibrant paintings of women, parrots and flowers are dominant in the retrospective of Chinese-American master Walasse Ting (1929-2010), a friend and colleague of Andy Warhol and Roy Liechtenstein.

The exhibition "To Love and To Be Fresh" is underway at both Longmen Art Projects and Hwa's Gallery.

Works from the 1990s are exhibited at Hwa's Gallery through April 8; works from the 1980s are on show at Longmen's through April 30.

In Paris, Ting became acquainted with Pierre Alechinsky and Asger Jorn who were associated with the CoBrA Movement (1949-1951). They emphasized spontaneity and were inspired by children's paintings and primitive art.

Ting was born in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, in 1929 and grew up in Shanghai.

He left Chinese mainland in 1946, went to Hong Kong and settled in Paris in 1952.

After 2002, Ting could no longer work due to a stroke; he died in New York last year, according to Lily Lee, organizer of the retrospective.

His main themes were female figures, flowers, plants and parrots - the natural world - painted in a rich variety of vivid colors.

"When I see a beautiful woman, I see flowers, I have spent all my life painting to express a sense of freshness just like a new spring, and women, cats, flowers and birds in my paintings all represent the beauty in that freshness," Ting once said.

He called himself the "Flower Pirate," proclaimed his unconventional and romantic lifestyle and declared himself a creator of female beauty.

Ting used thin black lines to outline forms and painted in acrylic with a virtuosity that made the forms appear feather-light and transparent, with a watercolor quality.

It is said that Ting began painting on the sidewalks at age 4, and started creative painting on outdoor walls at 10.

He studied for a short period at the Shanghai Art Academy but was unwilling to accept traditional academic training; he found it stifled his creativity and energy.

So he left school and started his legendary art journey when he was 17.

In Paris, Ting was strongly influenced by Matisse and other masters and his style became strong and rough. He used Chinese water ink.

In 1958, Ting moved to New York where abstract expressionism and pop art were at their peak. There he met Sam Francis, Andy Warhol and Tom Wesselman and they became close friends.

In 1970, Ting received a Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts. His work has been collected by the Guggenheim, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Tate Modern.

"All women are beautiful in some way. I never stop looking at women on the bus, in the streets. I am always admiring them, and I go home and paint happily and freely," Ting said. "When they are painted, the spring flowers bloom more brightly, the spring birds sing louder and the women in springtime, especially, are more lustful and passionate."

"What he liked was youth, vibrancy, summer and spring," says Kuan Kuan, a Taiwanese poet who friends with Ting in the early 1970s. "And when autumn came, he liked the autumn that wasn't autumn, but the autumn with flowers still blooming."

Hwa's Gallery (works from the 1990s)

Date: through April 8, 11am-6pm

Address: G109, Red Town Art Garden, 570 Huaihai Rd W.

Tel: 6127-5120

Longman Art Projects (works from the 1980s)

Date: through April 30, 10am-6:30pm

Address: 2/F, 23 Si'nan Mansions, 515 Fuxing Rd M.

Tel: 6472-2838


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