The Soul Can Take Off

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

2 Responses to “The Soul Can Take Off”

  1. sait Says:

    hello hawaryu yur nem gülistan

  2. mirsali,jimkashgar Says:

    you are great uyhgur girl.