“I don’t get it.”
“What don’t you get?”
“I… I don’t know. Is the artist making fun of China? Of the Western world?”
“Neither, I think. Erró, the artist, created this series, Chinese Paintings, around 1975. In the middle of the Cold War, it was quite ambitious to bring East and West together—even symbolically. Depicting Mao Zedong in famous Western places, like Trafalgar Square or with the White House in the background, was a political act. After all, no one knew how the Cold War was going to develop… or even end. We know the end of the story now so it does look a bit outdated. Still, in 1975, China was this mysterious country to most foreigners. It’s a snapshot of the era.”
I took Feng to L’Atelier to see Erró’s paintings again—the first time I was with Mark and my mum. I didn’t mind seeing the exhibition again, I really liked this series.
I’ve been to dozens of art museums. My father is an artist and my mother is into art as well, although she mostly focuses on the sociological aspects of it. They met in art school in the early 1980s. I clearly remember running around in art museums when I was a toddler. Apparently, I used to scream “that’s UGLY!” and whenever I would lose my parents, I would call every man with long hair “daddy”.
Then, I grew up and I developed a taste for visual arts. Kind of. I love photography, pop art, Impressionism (think Monet and Degas), Cubism (think Picasso), Realism and Surrealism, among other movements. I do not get Baroque art (“it’s… well done” is usually my comment) and installation art (although it’s occasionally entertaining). I don’t like art when it gets pretentious—I’m sorry but framing a white canvas is lame. I love art when it’s political and depicts human emotions, our flaws, dreams, and contradictions.
Once in a while, I’m drawn to an artist’s work. It just makes sense to me. Erró’s series speaks to me and I find it fun visually speaking because I’m familiar with classic Chinese propaganda posters, so I “get it”.
Today, we went to explore other small exhibitions around Nantes. The art museum has been closed for years for renovations, so temporary exhibitions are programmed throughout the city in interesting places like L’Atelier and Le Temple du Goût, a former private mansion. This time, I found the architecture of the place more interesting than the art… Except for one Delacroix, I wasn’t a fan of the paintings.