On Gulistan

The Essence of a Slow Voice Worn Down by Crystal

by Song Di

The tear of a harp is always costly. As the luxurious discarding of a subordinate Muse, which follows from Nemesis to Tapies, Gulistan’s fantasy world implies the most expensive silenzio of painting to us. To me, the different voice of paintress Gulistan’s new works is the promised voice “to add petals to crystal” in the present mixed context. “Painter”, as another troublesome moniker besides female, has been chosen as a shielded Muse. It is not only taken as “the softest bow” of a bride under the starry sky, but also as the fiery nightingale of feminism. Among the group of unwonted female artists who open layers of domes with the belief of body, Gulistan’s series of painted works in the last few years, for example, are coming back to weave the starry ribbon of silenzio for this indigent era.

Gulistan once compared one of her early paintings to the Circle Waltz, one of her favorite jazz albums. It was the “Waltz of Painting”, which she had never heard before. She said that painting was another kind of re-phonation. The harp is owned not only by the poets, for on the lean land washed out by belief, not only poets are left. Painting is Gulistan’s voice. (Gulistan—her mysterious English monogram—is just like her mysterious ancestry.) It is the quietest water arrived at with a flash of lightning. “Painter”, as Gulistan’s other more troublesome identity, has helped her find the quietest train (as she recalled the scene from a trip from Aksu when she was 9) with the act of drawing; the quietest painting is the passport and the prayer that the least brave will annunciate. Which country does silenzio begin with? If we think about the meaning of the name Gulistan, we meditate on the kingdom of flowers. Paintings such as the quietest flowers of a lamp shone by this young woman are quite rare. With Susan Sontag’s concept of a “key point”, I am apt to call the world of Gulistan’s works the “vowels of painting”. To be more exact, based on the “purchasing” of Gulistan’s imagination of painting’s fantasy world—Gulistan, undoubtedly, bought from the goddess of art the silent vowel of painting’s singularity—she is the rare female artist who uses silenzio to vocalize eternity in this era when the nightingale’s songs are shielded by noise.

I realize that the album Largo Gulistan recommended to me recently has supernaturally covered the ideology of largo expressed by a new French jazz pianist Brad Mehldau. This disc, released in 2002, was first heard by Gulistan in 2005. Largo is another identity for silenzio. Gulistan recounted that she spent much time working in her studio last year, while this year less. Painting as a slow striving is full of secret signs. I know that recently she turns her ear to the concertos of Bach and the piano sounds of the Former Soviet Union pianist Maria Yudina. But listening to the radio is her habit while creating in her studio. She told me a story about a poster designer named Monguzzi. During an interview, Monguzzi was asked to name one of his hobbies. He said that his hobby is to “listen to his wife read aloud before sleep”. Obviously, the spiritual act of listening to music provides Gulistan’s quiet realm of painting a correct sound contraposition. Of course, the nature of the fugue is less important.

Gulistan’s “only” vocalization shows the golden ribbons woven by time and space. As a former dancer and choreography teacher, or as a former consultant to the Chinese Bureau of Artifacts and Relics working with archaeological teams on the Silk Road, Gulistan has emphasized her “archaeological” vocabulary in her painting’s expression. Usually, “painter” and “traveler” are closely related with “a pair of shoes that can leave behind the essence of memory”. This surveyance and looking back to wander through the scene causes the artist’s internal identity to continuously “change the kingdom”. Gulistan’s painting also exerts an annotation upon the nostalgia carried by vagrants. Moreover, she begins with this, to extend the exiling subject of “sky that can never leave behind memory”. Where are the feet? Or where is the empty embroidered shoe left on the road (Gulistan’s favorite work)? Is traveling weakness? Or one’s mother tongue? Is the place where our bodies exist weak and unknowable? So the flowered journey is Gulistan’s “weakening lamp”, and the music stored in the body is called the “response to prayer”. I noticed that in Gulistan’s painting, the “stress” of other artists is contrary. She darkens the lamp of stars in the sky and makes them weak—so as to sacrifice the aesthetic tone of the atmosphere. Does it show another abstruse meaning of silenzio? Everything is reborn in the weakest moment. However, this “weak” we have seen is the same “stricken and concealed mark of a star” in Giotto’s works.

However, only after searching into Middle Age frescos such as those of Giotto and Simone Martini can we understand Gulistan’s zero degree starry sky of spiritual passion and the reverse knot that is concealed with time in her hands. On the other hand, I particularly care for her “unfinished” painting on the dome of the Italian church. Perhaps no other artist will paint in this way. This can only be Gulistan’s painting (however it belongs to the eyes of us all). When I saw this painting for the first time, a strong ideal-like belief occurred to my eyes and Terrence Terrone’s verse came suddenly out of my mouth: “An angel who has no face gripped me and penetrated my body with a murmur: Be proud, don’t be ashamed of being a man”. Thus, we, whose eyes brim over with warm excited tears under the dome, will find: “The dome in your body opened layer by layer and you will not be perfect which is doomed. Then, ‘you’ are put into the shining square dome opening layer by layer into their body”. Moreover, what are the stones of the dome? I saw the stones flooding out like fountain. Or, I can say that before Gulistan’s painting, I felt the church dome was created by an artist. Stelae were opened by belief like a gushing fountain. “The holy fire of Resurrection” mixed by ecstasy and serenity makes us start a new life. Half a year after finishing this work, Gulistan watched Tarkovsky’s film Andrey Rublyov. The clock maker, Tartar, and the land discarded by belief, heavy clouds of history, Giotto, who speaks Russian and paints icons, the stormy bow above the river—all these caused Gulistan to say this film “makes me understand my own paintings again”.

On the other hand, Gulistan’s “vowels of painting” are more likely to be hidden in her quiet female artistic proclivity. Think about the poetry of the great Russian poet Mandelstam: “Sisters, light and heavy wears the same sign.” What is more important is that as the poet had predicted, “heavy and light roses were woven into double anadem in the inchmeal whirlpool”. Gulistan’s “vowels of painting” also balance light and heavy, which is the reason why I regarded Gulistan’s “willful” and even break from “weak” to “dim” painting as the harp’s most precious cantabile melody. Besides, I used to believe that only a genuine poet’s hands could handle this so-called “vowel” above the level of “beauty”. This is also the “fiery mystery” kissed by the goddess of art and owned by a chosen minority.

On Gulistan 2

When Muses were recognized by those maids who gave “Penelope’s embroidery” instead of the little girl, who collected the sketches in the students’ cafeteria? Please give me back the cantabile melody of my sisters. Gulistan’s painting causes dresses in the fields to make a sound, which fills it full of mystery. “When my daughters reach age 12, I will teach them the way of mystery. It is not because they don’t know this ability but that I keep it from them….” This is the beginning of Gulistan’s favorite novel Witch by the talented female writer Marie Ndiaye from the French midnight writer’s group. Marie Ndiaye and Gulistan share a similar background and age. Their works “make us shake around this nervous and wondering world”. Both of them found their fantasy world in their own consciousnesses.

We can seldom find an artist who can verbalize like Gulistan in the mainstream or adventurous realms of Chinese art. She ought to belong to the field of conscious clues in art history. “My painting is the dress of a voice as well as the dress of a country, or a house.” This was Gulistan’s sudden remark during the design of a poster. (In fact, she is a lecturer in design at a local art college in Beijing. Moreover, though her paintings may appear in a gallery, her albums are her personal quiet and private “spiritual” posters.) At that time, I asked her whether she had read the poetry written by Chinese poet Duoduo that describes a woman with a pitted face, “weaving the dress which is afraid of death into ropes”. Gulistan obviously didn’t notice or skillfully avoided this brutal topic when she was designing a poster for the Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. She asked me in reply: Why not spread out the dress that was woven into rope? To spread the dress woven into rope by worry and death to silenzio is the key point that concerns this female artist. To revert the limited and distorted horizon into the origin of “vowel” is the potential trend of Gulistan’s works.

Make passion bloom. To Gulistan, her little “Penelope’s embroidery” is the “flower’s vocabulary” that is brushed together by passion of the body and samsara. “Sometimes I think that my works are the emerald tears discarded during samsara.” Should samsara be given up? Or as the poet once said, “I light here a black candle for you. Does burning fear not pray like a black candle?” What kind of “flowers and arc of samsara” do Gulistan’s works collect for us? Although in these years she is relaxing the pace of her creation, her respect is more acute and perspicacious than at any other period. With “Penelope’s embroidery” in her hands, the female artist is not going to take the responsibility of a prophetess or priestess over us, but she makes her art work again. The truth is the obstacle of each night—that is, if we can no longer understand the samsara and extrication of this world or the original statement of things. I know that this is Gulistan’s favorite topic about “mystery”. Learn new skills to “add new petals to the crystal”. Meanwhile, painting is to find the temporal house or to buy a new dress that can smolder in the fantasy of samsara. In the early part of this year, Gulistan took a special trip to Shanghai to attend the jazz festival there and to see her favorite vocalist Diana Krall—the selenic jazz girl who lights the piano ablaze. Gulistan showed me some of her Diana Krall albums. Among them is one called The Girl in the Other Room, where painting also has another house and a new dress.

But until now, has Gulistan forgotten her promise to draw Diana and her colored piano into a new painting that she had conceived? Gulistan’s eccentric essence of her painting world is not the supernatural hat pointing to Dali or Margaret’s “simpleton”. Gulistan, as a student, briefly liked Chacare. The violin villages flowing in the sky and the Vicebskaja elf dance in the fog looks like Gulistan’s home town that she loved during her childhood so much. But Chacare finally became the lamp that had been taken away. The late distinguished Spanish painter Tapies (rather than Miro, however, for how many times I have lost the Tapies memoirist) became the “lamp” that Gulistan can talk to secretly. But she has not been “disgraced” to borrow from Tapies the “mask with terminal twitch lightning”; instead she developed her own imagination in another house. Tapies’ “iron bell falling into the cellar” which is full of the sense of revenge contrapuntally becomes the least conscious quiet lightning of the atmosphere and the clearest reaching water in Gulistan’s world. Sometimes, I think about why in Gulistan’s painting world the nearest point usually appears in the form of the farthest point as if they are two extremes of one thing while maintaining such a “balance on the snow line?” “Many years ago I bought the most expensive Tapies’ volume, which is my secret treasure,” Gulistan said. Tapies was so close to the “lamp” of death. Here, it is redrawn as the dress that blooms to the north of the nightingale, which makes the eyes of a beckoning horizon ache.

“One day, self on the bed of the sky will dim like a train. Who will be the runner on that morning?” Then, feminism is the “softest bow” that has been placed back into the starry sky. We needn’t find something within it for us. In fact, in my opinion, Gulistan has tired to count the bell of feminism from the very beginning. Her identity as a female artist has brought her more strength to access the painting art itself. Thus, I will skip over in this scrambled article the “poison” from Beauvoir to focus on the female artist’s “subconscious phonation”.

Privately, when I asked Gulistan such mundane questions as the difference between artist and female artist, we usually didn’t find the “old wool disarranged by the black cat” before the topic switched to our favorite jazz albums or some other mysterious topic or anecdote about a female pianist. But sometimes when the topic dims like a train, we will “guess” how to “Throw Mama from the Train”? Gulistan thinks women should focus more on prayer and the response to prayer. When not drawing, she will find “pure power” from Tsvetaeva’s poetry, or to use the female dancer’s words, “I dance for I am sorrowful” to oppose her newly finished painting. It is tellable that Gulistan always writes poetry during the journey. The works have a sense of the Russian silver age. Besides, to find the new conscious shell to contain the old star, she has tried to translate her poetry into English. Thus, “forward…is arrogant”. Moreover, the “new” annunciation obtained from poetry, like the wine of grammar, makes every painting Chopin’s music.

To some extent, I think Gulistan will believe improvisatori is also the specialty of the female. From absentminded goddess Bjork in Dancing in the Dark, Gulistan turns to find the absentminded dress of the sound of jazz music. Improvisatori shows the “code of process” of the talented jazz artists. In the local show that seems to be from outer space, the goddess of inspiration in the dark night reveals to us the “secret” of talent through every enchanting turning about. The process of listening to jazz is the process of “revealing the secret” of artistic talent in the moment. Gulistan’s jazz “diving” makes her show more outstanding “improvisational intelligence” in her framed paintings. “How many times have the jazz albums of our body been copied by angels?” Every time when Gulistan fails to find a jazz album that she wants, or when she fails to see a jazz show because of life’s unexpected interruptions, she would ask questions such as this. This new energy from the jazz world makes Gulistan’s painting full of the abundant sense of creation. This “improvisational ode” enlightens more multiple internal silenzio in Gulistan’s canvas. I know that in the last few months, Gulistan has taken to a new jazz pianist, Marilyn Crispell, and her mysterious piano chord maze. In the album Odyssey, which has a charming green cover, Gulistan is said to have found her new “Odyssey”.

On Gulistan: Dark, or The Occupation of the Lamp

Where do we weave the anadem? “All the countries are ready to stand up” is the verse of Nelly Sachs, which is used to change the color of stars and “finish the journey”. Meanwhile, to me, the most mysterious thing about Gulistan’s paintings is that she helps us conceal “the night shift of frightened Muses”, which has never been done by others. I still remember that once she said her works had a similar deference as Anselm Kiefer’s Black Taboo Thorn after catastrophe, which surprised me. Kiefer’s works are so black (darker than the black of exile), while Gulistan’s works are quite different. Gulistan told me, in her eyes, “dark, itself is the way the lamp occupies”. So different artists do not follow the same way when translating the power of inward mind into works. Kiefer transferred to us the Black Cotton Field (one of Suge’s conception) during the era when the icon was wrecked. But she transferred the “capture” of dark by the lamp, or the “crystal” (a word that appears frequently in Gulistan’s diary during that period). On the other hand, what we saw through the crystal is the Black Cotton Field, which is like burned out cotton.

Because of Kiefer’s famous work Your Blond Margaret, Gulistan and Paul Celan were put through the strong “electricity of exile”. “Sand, ordered to black.” The unique “weak” and dark “yellow” in Gulistan’s painting had finally found an etymon in Celan’s poetry. (Sand is also a basic etymon in Sachs’ poetry kingdom, which is closely related with exile.) On the other hand, the snowstorm exuded from the “words” in Celan’s poetry left upon Gulistan a deep impression. To find painting different etyma of the “character of silence” is one direction in Gulistan’s attempt. Let us come back to sand, and to the childhood spiritual sea-route that Gulistan experienced in her hometown Aksu. Her painting art is like a starry silk ribbon spread in the desert which shows the mystery of the reaching of a new generation of female artists. (Another source, the frescos of Giotto, are the main hue of yellow in the Middle Ages, which also calls forth the works of Gulistan.)

When observing the works of Tapies, the favorite artist of Gulistan’s and Kiefer’s, we find the powerful strength in black abstract lines with the sense of vengeance of the former and “the dead fugue”, which crosses the extreme line in the latter, which also has the sense of a burnt smell in black powder magazines. On this side, the female artist, as the anonymous “abstract fountain”, put it into the original silence. All the artists with different backgrounds and genders represent the original wakefulness. What is the darkness? It is replaced by the lamp, which fosters the silence like beliefs, and new sound.

In this respect, the paintings of Gulistan and the music of Russian composer Gubaidulina have a lot in common. Although Gulistan has not heard the music of this woman, I still regard the sound of her oil paintings as the response to prayer—or the opposite. I watched the concert of Gubaidulina in Beijing on television several days ago. Gulistan told me subconsciously that the shock and the linkage between them lets her feel that she has found the “audio edition” of her oil paintings.