Xie Jinglan (also known as Lalan) was a talented Chinese composer, dancer and painter, whose major works are recently presented in the Kwai Fung Hin Art Gallery, Hong Kong, as a retrospect of her significant and profound creations from the late 1950s to 1990s.
Lalan was born and raised up in a scholarly family. Her gift for music was cultivated as her father bought her a piano at the early young age. Having studied in the Music Department of the Hangzhou School of Art, practiced composing at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris, and learnt electronic music with the renowned American-French avant-garde composer Edgard Varèse; Lalan’s enthusiastic pursuit of music had become her source of inspiration. Additionally, she began studying modern dance from Karine Weahner at the American Culture Centre after seeing a documentary film about Martha Graham. All the intensive voice and motions striking in her mind were incisively portrayed through her abstract paintings.
Calligraphic abstract was the first stage of Lalan’s creation. Strong black colours and rough bold lines resembling the Chinese oracle bone scripts and ancient bronzes and stone tablets; with brushstrokes sometimes restrained, while sometimes smooth, showcase the dynamic rhythms in music. The paintings at this period reflect Lalan’s free flow of thoughts, as if the line is she herself dancing in a large blank space.
Lalan | © 2017 KWAI FUNG HIN
Aside from vibrant imagery, Lalan also explored the aesthetics of stillness by shifting the focus of her works to landscapes exuding the feeling of inner peace in the 60s. Using soft-tune watercolour and blurry outlines, the mysterious atmosphere created depicts a utopia unbound by the constraints of vision. In 1971, Lalan performed her own choreographed modern dance in her originally composed music in front of her paintings. The fusion of three divergent artistic creations is being recognised as ‘integrated art’.
Spreading multiple layers of colours and moving her hand freely along the canvas, Lalan’s painting techniques were growing in tandem with the complexity of compositions. The scattered dots symbolise continuous steps in dance and bounce in rhythms, making the work to be full of musical pleasure.
Lalan’s masterly use of different forms of art advocate free expression, genuine in sentiments and personal spirits, which is pioneering and bold as a Chinese woman living in the 20th century.
“It was only when I took off the outer garment of the Muses that I realized I could not live without painting”. – Lalan
Special thanks to Kwai Fung Hin Art Gallery for press materials.
Visit the Kwai Fung Hin Art Gallery at G/F, 20 Ice House Street, Central, Hong Kong.