‘Where I create, there I am true’ Reiner Maria Rielke

Holiday time, for many, is a special time when we take ‘those few days ‘off’ from the reality and allow ourselves to relax, chill-out and ‘drift away’ in our thoughts to the times when we were still those little, carefree children. Childhood is (or at least it should be) a time when things are usually much simpler, life is either ‘black’ or ‘white’ and in our naïve, little but already very sensitive heads there is nothing but big dreams and the hope to grow up soon and finally understand one, very important thing. That is – why on earth do the ‘grown ups’ almost never smile and worry so much about everything.

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Levis Carroll, ‘Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland’, 1932, Private Collectio of the author. 

This year, inspired by a very long and fascinating telephone conversation I had with a France based  and China born, visual artists  Hualing Xu, I decided to make a sentimental journey to one of the most incredible fairy tales ever written – that is  to ‘Alice in Wonderland’ by Lewis Caroll (whose real name was Charles Lutwidge Dudgson). My email exchange with Xu Liang confirmed what I  have already ‘read’ from studying her artworks. As far as I am concerned the Asian Artist mind seems to be the place where the imagination of Lewis Caroll is reborn and  hundreds of ‘just-like-Alice-In-Wonderland’ ideas come to life.

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(c) Hualing Xu, ‘The First Snow’, 2017

The beautiful and the bizarre pop up like mushrooms. When you visit Hualing Xu website, her artworks will overwhelm you with the thrilling creativity, vibrant colors and surrealism that is unlike anything else you’ve seen before.

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(c) Hualing Xu, ‘The Sun’, 2017

You will find there little, stubborn princesses trying to consume a sword, there is a braid holding a new born baby from which long, pink mushrooms are growing in a large amount and there are bright colors that take you back to the impressions similar to the ones that you had when as a child you were visiting a candy shop. This is what she says about her own work: ‘I create my paintings inspired by my childhood memories. The fragments of the memories remain quietly in the back of my mind, sometimes they smile at me, other times they sting me. The child is a main subject in my work and fascinates me a lot.I am drawn to dreamlike and colorful worlds. I travel between the real and the unreal. Also, my characters are often transposed in a strange and surreal environment or situation. They are often lost in this “elsewhere” timeless space, where childhood and delicacy cross strangeness.’

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(c) Hualing Xu, ‘Who Are You?’, 2015

My conversations with Hualing Xu brought to my mind an original book from 1932 that I purchased couple of years ago in  one of the Wroclaw’s  antique shops. What I loved most about this pre-war edition of Alice in Wonderland, were the illustrations that made the ‘experience’ of the children reading it almost 100 years ago much more deep and unforgettable.

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 ‘Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland’, John Tenniel Illustrations, 1932, Private Collection of the author. 

Alice was popular almost from the moment it was published, in 1865, and it has remained in print ever since, influencing such disparate artists as Walt Disney and Salvador Dali. There were at least 20 films and TV shows made from the book. Anybody who has ever read Alice  or seen a movie adaptation inspired by it knows very well that the story is full of different ‘double meanings’ and metaphors’, containing many universal truths about human nature.

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 ‘Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland’, John Tenniel Illustrations, 1932, Private Collection of the author. 

 

It  commonly known that ‘Alice’ has been inspired by a real girl – Alice Lidell who was also the writers muse.

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Lewis Caroll, Alice Liddell as Beggar-Child, 1860.

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Lewis Carroll, Alice Liddell, 1860, National Portrait Gallery 

The ‘children’s friend’ and author of books on  mathematics (as being a math’s professor was the writers ‘real’ profession’) over the couple of years when he was a frequent visitor in Lidells house, he documented Alice’s looks, personality and charm on many, ‘highly accomplished’ portraits. These works are going on display next year in the National Portrait Gallery exhibition  called Victorian Giants: The Birth Of Art Photography and could be seen from March 1 to May 20, 2018.

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National Portrait Gallery, London 

This quite interesting fact from the history of Art and Literature made me stop and look closer at the phenomenon of ‘a muse’. It made me ask a question – what is a muse, actually?

Is muse a person, or could it also be a dog or a tree, or a feeling? Isn’t this ‘abstract term’ anything in life that inspires and brings the best out of us? A trigger and catalyst? To some people ‘the muse’ is a woman or a man that one meets or comes in touch with during the lifetime. Sometimes it is romantic and passionate, sometimes it is pure platonic with no hidden agenda. To others the role of a muse could be fulfilled by ‘the children of nature’, such as the ocean, the forests,  the mountains, wild animals or cosmic space. I don’t really think that astronauts would risk their life and look for new planets or stars if their love to a  star light wasn’t equal to artist love to his or her muse. Similarly – the soldiers would never defend their country with their own body if their love for the country wasn’t real and true.

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Grown up Alice Liddell in 1872, photogrph by Julia M. Cameron, National Portrait Gallery

Since the old and grey 2017 is slowly coming to an end – and we are about to welcome the New Year 2018 quite soon,  I want to wish all of you to find your ‘very own muse’ (if you haven’t found one yet) – your own Alice in Wonderland that will make you feel driven, motivated and inspired throughout the entire year. A muse that will be  all that the little Alice was for Lewis Carroll.  The mesmerizing light, the fuel and representation of a pure thought and feeling.

“And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been”

Rainer Maria Rielke

 

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