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Paintings of Richard Feinman: A way to walk out of the dilemma of modern art

Art scholar Rudolf Arnheim once described art as chaos leading to two extremes. One extreme is simplism; the other, complexity. Jackson Pollock’s abstract art (complexity) and Mondrian’s Neo-Plasticism (simplism) represent the two extremes. Arnheim argued that these two extremes will eventually lead to the extinction of art itself because 1) both works have lost the tension which sustains the necessary chaos of art; 2) both works have neglected the creativity needed to solve the chaos; 3) one can find order from chaos.

There is another way, however, which uses a form of “anti-art” to break away from chaos. This is found in the “readymades” of Duchamp, who defied the rules of what he called “retinal art” in by turning ordinary manufactured objects into high art.

The above three courses result in a predicament which still leave many of today’s artists perplexed. And the result is a post-modernist world full of art of no value, beauty, imagination or creativity.

After studying painting in US and design in UK, Richard Feinman came to China four years ago. While Richard’s fellow artists abandoned brushes for new media, he stuck to painting, which he does out of his small flat in Beijing. Richard’s art has found a middle way between the real and the abstract, reality and idea, extrovert and introvert, order and chaos. He re-established the aesthetic value once abolished by the post-modernists.

Richard’s abstract art is based on his respect of realism. Although some geometric figures are applied in his paintings, they have no meaning except to serve as the portrait of characters. Restrained by his respect to realism, Richard neither ventures towards the extreme of complexity like Pollock, nor the extreme of simplism like Mondrain. In fact, whether it is Pollock’s complexity or Mondrain’s simplism, both caused the extermination of art by abandoning its inherent creative quality. To Pollock, creativity burnt into casualness, while to Mondrain, it froze into stiffness. Richard’s paintings are neither casual nor stiff. His structure is well thought out and designed. One is able to speculate what Richard would like to convey through his paintings. He applies strong colors to soften the design. His techniques undermine the stiffness of thoughts. This is the so-called creativity of art, which is not to be unique, but to find a way to harmonize different tensions.

Richard’s respect for painting does not let him go back to realism. As with abstract art, photographic realism doesn’t allow any creativity. It is a kind of mechanical work and its being is still in doubt. Although we can find the characters of Buddha, businessmen and maids on Richard’s paintings, they are surpassed and interpreted by souls rather than a copy of reality. Richard’s interpretation is not casual, but keeps the original link between the image and reality. Also, the interpretation contains the artist’s feelings, understanding and thinking, and reveals his own characters.

Richard paints the world he understands and interprets, thus we can say his paintings are the work of his soul. To reveal his soul, Richard has developed his own unique art language. This language is not entirely undecipherable. We can find the bridge connecting this language and reality, and understand the artist’s work by his language in a modern art context.

Our feelings of the world become more and more intense and vivid through Richard’s work and his interpretation of the soul. We enter a condensed sensational world in which people communicate without language. In Richard’s art world, we sympathize with the ugly and longing the beauty. I think this is the power of art.

Peng Feng
Beijing University

Feb 24, 2007

 


Lanmei Cheng (Lorita)
October 1, 2016

The artworks of Lanmei Cheng(Lorita) represent a spiritual journey full of emotion, colour, experience, memory and dreams. Over a span ofthree decades her work follows her intuition leading toward a personification of abstraction. Transcending from figure to tree, tree to landscape and landscape to spiritualismcentered on her life’s experiences and individualism.

Life experience is Lorita’s main painting theme.  Her artwork reflects theapproach to understand the inner nature ofher ‘self'.  She explores variances within, both peaceful and divergent, individual and personal,as a way to communicate with her subconscious and also the viewer. A visual expression based on the spirit of life envisioned through a myriad of colour combinations and harmonies used to provoke thought,emotion and movement.

Her powerful impetus and ambition comes from the joy of painting and self-discovery continuing to expand and examine her state of consciousness and life experience that leans toward a simplification of her work. Conflicts become relationships; line, shape and colour become friends, and opposite colours become harmonies.

Her visual responsefrom life startedfrom early paintings based on the figure transgressing into trees and flowers, people and family into song and emotion and landscape into spiritualism.  One theme links to another to form her cycle.  Line as movement, colour as emotion, togetherthey represent intrinsic forces in nature both actual and humannature (consciousness) progressing towards a kind of spiritual simplification.

Her style of artwork is as I like to refer to it as “Expressive Therapy” expressing intrinsic elements such as natural elements, emotion and feeling into her work following the journey or cycle of her life. – RF

Lorita has required a priceless amount of experience from her father, who being an artist, taught her at an early age - learning his trade, observing his work and living in an art environment.

Lanmei Cheng’s artwork is well balanced not only visual aspects such as composition and or content but also in feeling, emotion and most of all, life - art balances her life. The title of her works give the viewer an insight into her thought process.  She often uses “Van Gogh” style brushwork to provide movement and colour to provoke how she is feeling and thinking.  The title, content, composition, brushwork together with colour and emotion form relationships in her paintings.  She classifies her work into themes which are, in fact, characteristics of her life and is representational to her being.  The evolution from one painting to another and one series to another creates a visual cycle which begins with reality and travels toward abstraction.

Lorita uses the term “simplification” to describe her latter work.    Resolution of life’s experiences past and present all of which are reflected into her body of work all leading toward a greater “self-purpose” of peace within oneself and individual spirituality.  This explains her journey into abstraction / simplificationwhere her work currently resides. Mind body and soul. Layers of simplification placed on top of one another creating a parallel cycle of life between what she interprets as “real”,and how she represents it throughher thoughts, feelings and emotion.

Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known. - Oscar Wilde

After over 30 years of painting,starting in 1985 she has consolidated her work into 8 main themes or series. These 8 groups of work create a linked body of work bound but not limited to a journey inside the artists’ life, this becomes a cycle or a visual a cycle of work.  Art is freedom and although her paintings represent a personal journey into self-discovery, they do not confine her to this body of work - having the freedom to paint whatever she wants, in whatever style, when she wants to.

Because of this freedom or individualism she often re-visits a particular theme she has worked on in the past or classifies a new piece of work within a particular theme according to content.  A series might contain work from the late 80’s then re-visited again many years later. This loosely bound classification of her work provides structure and also allows the freedom to add to a theme(when relevant)or add a completely new series of work to her already existing compilation.

Her early paintings are figure based and then progressed into the following series:

  1. Brilliant Flowers 1986 – date INFLUENCE
    Early paintings in this series have a clear influence by master painters such as Renoir, Van Gogh and Cezanne.  These influences help pave the way to her more recent work in the series (her latest painted in 2016).  There is a clear difference in the development of her work.  She has developed her own style using simple motifs and creating movement from her brushwork.
  2. Fantasia 1986 – 2015 EVERYDAY LIFE Early work in this series reflect herself, a visual diary of everydayinstances in her life. This is the starting point where a“seed is planted” and she begins to visually paint or document her life. Titles include:“My Lovely Doggie” – 1986,“Journey Across Life” - 1986, and “My lovely Home” – 1989. Her latest painting in this series “The Evolution of Truth” – 2015 embarks on a journey into hersubconscious where her work is a reaction to intrinsic personal experiences.
  3. Forrest Love Songs 1993 – 2004 LOVE & EMOTION,SUBCONSCIOUS EXPERIENCES
    In this series of work the trees become people and vice versa. There is a harmony in each one reflecting her love for life and nature. The title, like background music, has an underlying tone or rhythm (movement) throughout the series.
  4. Dancing Lifes 1989 – 2004 MOTION AND HARMONY
    This series is a cross between cubism and futurism.  At first sight the work reminds me of Marcel Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase”. As you look deeper inside the series work, with suggestions from the titles, the artist becomes the dancer happily dancing through life and the viewer becomes her audience.
  5. Green Feeling 2004 – 2006LANDSCAPE ABSTRACTIONS
    The “Green Feeling”series suggests natural intrinsicmovement (i.e. the wind) it is expressed gesturallyusing short choppy brushstrokes.  The series as a wholestarts to become more abstract or simplified giving the viewer a connection between; nature, the artist, and to the work itself.Landscape is an area of painting in which Lorita develops a connection between herself and her surroundings.  Observing, experiencing, expressing her feeling for the environment then using her inner voice ‘verbally’ to help communicate ‘visually’ her creative process.
  6. Love Affections 1986 – 2010 LOVE AND NUTURE BOND
    The relationship between mother and child. Expressed using true feeling and colour. As termed earlier “Expressive Therapy” this series demonstrates this by expressing extreme emotion and feeling on canvas - using art like therapy as a way to communicate visually how the artist is feeling and thinking. 
  7. Heaven and Earth 2005 – 2013 SPIRITUALISM
    A continuation on landscape with the added theme of spiritualism.  The work is simplified evolving into abstraction.
  8. Life Cycling 2005 -2016 LIFE CYCLE – DA MING
    This work represents the cycle of life of all living beings people, plants and animals.  It is the resolution of life, a simplification of self, a calmness represented by the colours of Da Ming (a Chinese interpretation of a Hindu concept in ancient Buddhism relating to emotion and feeling represented by the colours: Red, Yellow, Blue, Green, White and Black).  This series also connects the landscape to spirituality.  A seed is planted, grows, blossoms, then dies and the cycle starts over.

Lorita is not afraid to explore and experiment with different themes and content. She uses various art styles that augmenther exploration of art and life. It is an individual response to how she perceives and experiences “her” world. Regardless of style, the essence of “Lorita” exists inside her work documenting her art and life both emotionally and visually.

Based on the concept of “I paint my own way, with different styles, always carry my

spirit”, I kept creating new work to express freedom and beyond nature.- Lanmei Cheng (Lorita)

The expression of line, brushstroke, colour, content and title give an insight to understanding her work.  She creates art as a response to how she is feeling or thinking and uses this emotion in her work.  Many of her artworks have hidden or underlying meanings expressed within the layers of paint.  Throughout her career as an artist, you the viewer, can see many changes in the way she explores, expressesand interprets her visual journey.

Art evolves according to who you are, what you experience and people, places or things that might influence you.  It is perceived, observed, experienced, dreamed and felt. Exploration, experimentation, expression, communication and interpretation all play a part in the creative process.  It is a journey into life and and soul of the artist. - RF

Upon having many conversations with Lanmei Cheng (Lorita) the next chapter in her work is to focus on individual understanding -to dwell deeper into her own awarenessand to create avisual comprehension of (her) life according to her conscious, subconscious and unconscious state of mind in the form of dreams and interpretations of past memories and experiences.The freedom of abstraction and simplification can delineate this process or state of painting,expanding toward a more sophisticated level of creating.

I have known Lorita for several years and had the pleasure to exhibit my work along side hers in a myriad of exhibitions in and around Shanghai.  Her passion for art burns deep within her soul starting from childhood. Anyone that has the honor to know Lorita can agree that her passion and persistence in art whether it is her work, teaching others, and helping other artists, experiencing life to the fullest this becomes her greatest masterpiece and her ultimate adventure.

Happy Painting!

Richard Feinman BA, MA
Head of Art and Design
ULINK College of Shanghai

 
 
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