Archive for February, 2007

The Soul Can Take Off

Monday, February 19th, 2007

The Soul Can Take Off—Gulistan talks about painting

by Gong Yunbiao


The title of this article is borrowed from a sentence in Gulistan’s poem, “The Shape of My Psyche.” In it, she wrote:

Humans cannot escape from the flower of transmigration
Woven by time and void.
But the soul can take off
Something about time
Something about void
About the void inside the soul of a human
Stay along side by side to construct “a series of musical notes”
Thus initiate the intensive quest of “existence”

That may be true: Art can only transfer the note to the people who are touched by art. Time and space exist and create meanings only for the soul of passion. To Gulistan, paintings and art is a medium to fly her soul.

In Gulistan’s paintings, everything seems disassembled and reassembled with her hand—ray, light and shade, hue, lines, images and composition seem to have no beginnings and endings, only belonging to the soul of time and space which spreads and expands and flies continuously.


Descartes said, “I think therefore I am.”

The world is made up of two distinct existences—spiritual and material. People are the subjects who can experience. The world, except the people themselves, is formed by what they observe. Thus, everyone has his own world, and thousands of people have thousands of worlds.

Gulistan has her own world—an elegant world. Excluding everything that is not elegant, the elegant world is the only one left for her.

Succeeding Descartes’ thought, Husserl wrote a book Phenomenology. In his book, he said, “because of my inner thinking about the object, the thought from me comes out, and the objects present different features for the different action put to it. If you could feel it, the object has the feeling; if you are imaginative, the object has the imaginary thought; if you are happy, the object is happy too; if you have the feeling of willingness, the object reveals the same thing.”

Gulistan is in the state being elegant all the time. What she has is elegant.

Having the possession of elegance is a huge fortune for her. If we borrow Descartes’ famous sentence, we can put it like this: Gulistan’s painting is elegant because it is Gulistan’s.


The essence of art comes back to the things that eyes can reach which reflects the subject and object of the vision. The essence of art reflects the true world, but this factuality is not the reoccurrence of the object but the expression of the subjects: not stressing the people who live but the world that people inhabit; and the worlds refer to the one that people experience in their mind and the other one outside which exists independently from people’s psychological world.

Gulistan, with the concerned look to life, observes, approaches, catches and discovers the essence of conscious world that inner world can experience. In her works “Transient Silence · Lighted sea”, “The Sun Above the Attic”, “Owls to the Far Away Music”, the piano and high-heeled shoes in “The Feature of Memory” and the body in “The Lost Memory” do not only express what she experiences inside but also the observations she gets from outside. This is the production in which she depicts “the existence” to show the development of time and the spirit of the storage after she refines and creates the meaning from the source material.

There is a sentence that people like to quote from the analysis of Heidegger to Van Gogh’s “Farmer’s Shoes”, namely, “After the existence hidden being lighted, the light which is a beautiful thing has been incorporated into the works. Beauty is a medium and by which the truth is revealed.”


Gulistan’s paintings have rhymes.

Reading her paintings is like reading a small poem with meter and rhyme that also contains lots of parallel structures; a poem is filled with pause and transition, and level and oblique. People can read them aloud with rhyme and tone. Her paintings present different shapes, like a harmony and polyphony of a series of notes and rhymes. They push the audience to read them again and again.

In Gulistan’s paintings, there is a violin standing alone, a small open and yellow book, two closed windows, and several people looking emotionless. When all these jump into your eyes, they form into a small poem, just like what Akhmatova wrote:

The clock on the table tells the coming of evening
A blank page is difficult to hold
Sponge tree sends out mild fragrance
A flamingo flies high in the moonlight
Tomorrow seems to have braids
I plait it into the moonlight
I am not blue again, looking outside from the window
At the sea, and sand mound

Poem needs imagination, so does art; but only when art is conveyed into the soul, can imagination be produced.

Wells used to comment on Cézanne: “Cézanne—imagination is the only realism in art. Only in this way can artistic works escape from the copy of nature and become an artistic form.” Cézanne summed up the source of artistic creation into: “We live in the center of the poems.”

Gulistan makes herself live in such a center of life.


“The Essence of Memory” is one of the series of works that Gulistan has created in recent years.

People’s consciousness sometimes sleeps in our thinking bank. Although it awaits us to wake it up, it is the only way to recognize Nature. To recover the memory may not be very direct and distinct, but it comes up in a vague inspiration. Obscurity is not a bad thing. Isn’t it a poem itself? It is a beauty, isn’t it?

Gulistan puts obscurity into the poem and experiences the essence of memory. Thus, obscurity is not only a vague thing but full of rich meanings. When I read the painting, I associate it sometimes with dominoes, evoking my imagination and new experience. But is an obscure image what a painter aims to express or avoids to express? Is obscurity the essence of memory or the maze designed for a definite purpose? All the puzzles arouse you to experience, imagine and analyze them again and again.


Last August I went to a gallery and saw Gulistan’s paintings on the wall: “The Note of Ground”, “The Music in the Air”, “The Call of the Beauty”, “Oriental Wandering”, and “Grey Scenery · Blues”.

I asked myself: Who are the paintings drawn for?

Perhaps nobody ever asked Gulistan such a question; neither did I.

But in my view, she doesn’t draw for herself or for others, but just does it naturally.

She must know someone will come to see her paintings, but even if she knows it, she may not do it for them. She draws continuously without stopping, not caring who comes or whether people come to see her paintings at all.

Durer said “Art is hidden in Nature”, which refers not only to the Natural world but to the commonality of the world. Nature in one sense refers to spring flowers and autumn moon, summer sun and winter snow; in another sense, it refers to the state in which one does things out of will. Painting can be done naturally following one’s sense. Painting is to painters a normal way of life. Life is a natural and artistic form which can be felt: The true feeling is a natural thing, and natural things can give people a sense of true feeling. Why bother with the question as to whom one paints for?

Bian Zhilin, a modern poet, wrote a small poem entitled “A Piece of Passage”:

You appreciate the scenery on the bridge
Someone looks at you from the buildings
Bright moon decorates your windows
You decorate the dream of others.

Someone takes you who enjoys the scenery as a piece of scenery; that bright moon that decorates your windows becomes a picture to decorate the dreams of others. Everything seems very natural. The role can be exchanged but you are still yourself. Just follow your way of doing things, without caring how others think.


The color on the painting is usually the subjective factor that painters express.

Yellow is Gulistan’s favorite color.

There is a question whether Gulistan is influenced by her supervisor, Shangyang, or whether she likes to change the style; apply yellow color and keep it until today. Shangyang used to say: “I choose yellow for its simplicity. The reason for the choice is, to some degree, that simplicity is much higher in quality than a complicated thing.”

I deeply agree with what Shangyang said. However, I can read more surreal secrets and dreams into Gulistan’s yellow color. This is the color she uses to isolate herself from the real world, turning to a subjective world of imagery which indicates the growth of life in a sense.

What is the color of the soul? Gulistan gives the answer as yellow. With the movement of her brushes, she produces more convincing pictures of space, one after another, which are full of animate dreams that wait for people to reveal them.

Someone asked Balthus: “Why do you paint?”

Balthus answered: “I paint as a prayer, because I am a Christian.”

That man asked again: “What is in the eyes of Christians?”

Balthus answered: “Still painting.”

If someone were to ask Gulistan the same question, I believe, her answer must be the same.

—Translated by Guo Jian


Monday, February 19th, 2007




























Gulistan古丽斯坦将朦胧纳入画面,体验记忆的性质。这种朦胧并不是暧昧,而是耐人寻味的丰富。当我试着让目光进入画面,便发现这种朦胧的意象瞬间变成了我联想的 “多米诺骨牌”,它调动了我的想象,引发了我的体验。但是,这种朦胧的意象,究竟是画面所要表达的,抑或是对“表达”本身的掩饰和回避?究竟是记忆的性质原本就该是朦胧的意象,抑或是有意设置的“迷宫”,不由你不调动你的体验和想象,对它作出一次又一次不同的解读?


























Floating Images

Monday, February 19th, 2007

by Stone

Numerous wise philosophers are concerned about the present time in which the material world demonstrates a super-authentic quality and flaunting adjacent distances with narcissism from which the perspective for the poetry of vision and soul is nowhere to be found.

However, Gulistan presents an abstract world transcending secular life and explores a space of cruising vision and expecting soul with the images in her paintings. Such images, which cannot be achieved with mechanical methods, are like floating above one’s soul.

In her works, there is no shock of “cruel youth” or strategy of “videoed existence”. Not self-expressionist like slogans and unrelated to bitter wandering or self-exile, her painted works are filled with faint colors, vague images, gleaming lines and unconscious or occasional traces, which are separated from the hilarious reality and naked ideas with a big gap, being as if an old memory is flashing in one’s mind.

No matter how old she becomes, perhaps there will always be a nook in her heart for the moment when she entered dance school as a child. Outside the window the sun is shining in her hometown Sinkiang, with notes flowing in the air and a giant piano arrogantly occupying a corner. In the training room, she practices stretching, further and further day after day as if floating above water.

Such experience in her childhood constructed the imagery of Gulistan’s spiritual homestead, which embraces the objects of nature, poetry, love and meditation. Such a spiritual homestead becomes the spiritual mother of themes which, later on, she encounters or intentionally catches on the blank canvas from time to time. Each of her works is produced with “the impulse to seek her homestead by such nostalgia”. Free stretching was replaced by the oil painting brush: with the brush, she is tentatively exploring a world of mystery, hoping to meet divinities to find solace for a fragile soul.

Therefore, Gulistan is infatuated with the sensory world and beauty, pondering on her growing of song, dance and music and missing and cherishing the memory of the primitive state of body and mind. However, Gulistan feels a tension from the imbalanced living space in the metropolis, where excess pursuit of wealth and speed are prevalent. A tensile force is created by the contradiction between spiritual needs and physical reality. Instead of propelling her passively to cancel her “present” position to merely call on the memory of the transient and finite past, the tension serves as an activator for blending her “memory” and current experience of existence and make them flourish.

In the series of Where Are We Going, Gulistan calls on the dancing shoes from her memory. The pompous style and decoration of the shoes seem to originate from the Western European singing and dancing opera which she used to watch and still fancies. The image of the dancing shoes not only arouses the poetry of the line “In festivals, brown-colored women are walking on the splendid ground…” but also poses the classical questions: “Who are we?” “Where are we from?” “Where are we going?”. Such cultural reflections, which also belong to the global age of consumption, imply Gulistan’s anxiety for the vagrancy of culture. Mottled texture of paintings, traces of unrepeatable encounters, spots and lines like letters, are all her personal possessions. Generated from the bottom of her heart, the symbols, like notes, constitute her unique language system. Different from the stand of aestheticism that art and life absolutely conflict with each other, Gulistan manages to avoid being hurt by the captivating illusionary scenes and “rhymes” blemished by malicious intention with her elegant narrative rhetoric, meanwhile keeping a secret passage for the soul pervading anywhere.

The Essence of Memory, Contemplating the Middle Ages and About Time are Gulistan’s important painting series. These serially published paper works, emerging in the electronic world where hand-written letters have passed on, are a delicate metaphor by themselves. The presence of paper brings a sense of mystery: with creased paper or paper books of plural forms in hand, one feels the void in the gloom light. In the Contemplating the Middle Ages series, there is also an illusion of a Gothic church and the vague creased gowns of monks. The revelation and meaning are similar to that of a religion, which she indicates is like a myth in dreams and illusions. It is not difficult to trace these pages and the sculpting and rhyme of hands back to the works of masters in the earlier Renaissance such as Giotto and Francesco. In terms of the origin of the drawing style “vagueness and reality mutually exist, traceless lines make marvelous spots”, it can be found in the Chinese traditional art. The series Nuwa’s Dress and The Latest Works are filled with fascinating images such as clubs on broken branches, blue-flowered porcelains, paintings of legislators with traditional themes, folk vessels, murals and myths in regions such as Sinkiang and Dunhuang. These numerous and complicated images are merely the encounters in her unfettered spiritual travel. Only when they are understood with the elegance of her deeply rooted culture considered, can these images become so sensitive and charming.

Just like her mixed bloodline of Uyghur and Han nationalities, the bloodline of the images in Gulistan’s painted works are mingled, with each image being freely applied. Gulistan travels among symbols of different cultures. Just like playing a game, she apprehends and juxtaposes these symbols at will. The personal taste faintly revealed in her works illustrates her exclaiming curiosity and innocence about the world. She is intoxicated with the soundless dance on the canvas, modest and low-profile. The floating images are but a hint, “…moreover, since the ancient times, the languages of the gods have been hints”.

Translated by Gao Liqun


Monday, February 19th, 2007






这个童年体验构筑了Gulistan古丽斯坦精神家园的意象,在其中,包含了自然之神、诗意、爱和冥思的对象,成为日后,她在画布的虚空中一再有意捕捉或无意邂逅的精神母题。日后的每张创作,都是怀着这种 “乡愁的冲动寻找家园”。油画笔取代了自由伸展的肢体,她向一个神秘的世界试探着伸出画笔,以期能够触碰到神灵,抚慰孱弱的心灵。




一如她的维、汉两族交融的血统,Gulistan古丽斯坦作品中形象的血缘是混杂的,形象的使用是自由的,她游历于不同文化的符号之间,将其自由的挪用、并置,像做一个游戏。她的作品中淡淡流露的纤细的个人触觉,显示了她对这个世界令人惊叹的好奇与天真,所以,她醉心于画布上无声的舞蹈,质朴内敛,浮动的形象只是一个暗示 “……而且,自古以来,诸神的语言就是暗示”。


1 德·海德格尔《荷尔德林诗的阐释》孙周兴 译 商务印书馆2000年12月
2 清·笪重光 《画荃》
3 德·海德格尔《荷尔德林诗的阐释》孙周兴 译 商务印书馆2000年12月