Critical Analyses

The Stranger, Existentialism & Me​

NOVEL BY ALBERT CAMUS

Camus utilized The Stranger as a platform to explore absurdity, a concept central to his writings and at the core of his treatment of questions about the meaning of life. Albert Camus is the polarized man that he was, held more firmly to the belief of Absurdism than existentialism. The concept of the absurd instead implored people to accept life’s lack of meaning and rebel by rejoicing in what life does offer. But what’s give our life purpose?

 

If the fundamental component of existentialism is we are each born into a universe in which we and our world and our actions lack any real importance, then it's like we are searching for an answer in an answerless world. We are creatures who need a meaning but were abandoned into a universe full of meaninglessness. A sense of purpose is something we all crave, maybe even need. 

While this indeed paints me to a pretty bleak picture of the world. I was drowning in the routine of our existence, getting into a deep conspiracy conversation with myself. The system is fake, is a huge lie. I might be living in a Truman Show, an artificial world full of actors. However, these actors are real as I am and also lost in space, spinning on a clock. What is my reality? 

Within my practice, I had been gone almost full circle from painting family portraits to using mirrors to purse reality, finally back to the family narrative again.  To some degree,  I also become the protagonist in 'The Stranger' trying to approach my vulnerable self-awareness in the chaos of existence with my practice.  Sometimes just a holy desire to make something ugly, uncomfortable, and haunting. Yes, it is messy and complicated, but it's real.

Dorothea Tanning 

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For male surrealists, women have always been depicted as passive objects of desire. While within Tanning's work,  it's easy for me to view her work from a feminist perspective. Within her work, most of the female protagonist has entirely different qualities.  Like the one on the left, two young girls with ripped clothes both gaze into an imagined world with giant sunflowers. I first saw this piece was in the Tate Modern,  the actual work is much more sensational unnerving. The female figures under her brush are poetic in their silent power and challenge the unusual fear. 

Tanning as one of the handfuls female surrealists who gained my admiration throughout my art career.  I was fascinated by this irrational world full of unconscious creation, creepy adolescent girls, unknown door some sort. In short,  Tanning and I do share something uncanny in common. She's trying to expand the ongoing exploration of the themes- family, domestic spaces, flesh, and bodies, uncover the things lurking in the shadow or behind the close door- taboo. 

Although my work most of the time shows an interest in domestic space from a feminist perspective dealing with pass memory. I did try to depict the female protagonist 'Dog Lady' in early 2020 who has not inhibited by society's expectation and moral codes. It didn't turn out as I want, somehow the intention od the subversion of gender and identity didn't really match the audience. 

Indeed, above all, this truly strange singular version of Tanning will keep reminding me of the starting point "I still care" as the picture show on the right.

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The Subversive Stitch

By Rozsika Parker

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In this book, author Rozsika Parker re-evaluated the reciprocal relationship between woman and embroidery into the fine arts. Embroidery has always been related to female domesticity. The status of embroidery declined: a major art form in the Middle Ages, practiced by both men and women. By the 19th century, it was regarded as specifically feminine, domestic, and low in the artistic hierarchy. It also considered ‘sweated labor’, the sewing done by working women, which is an issue just as relevant today.

 

In particular, she examines embroidery and how it has historically been both a source of pleasure and creativity and a source of oppression:

 

Embroidery has been the means of educating women into the feminine ideal, and of proving that they have attained it – witness the history of samplers, for instance – but it has also proved a weapon of resistance to the painful constraints of femininity. […] Limited to practicing art with needle and thread, women have nevertheless sewn a subversive stitch, managing to make meanings of their own in the very medium intended to foster polite self-effacement.

 

 

Family Album 

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Family Album is a work I come across online, which is host by Nottingham Contemporary as an attempt to provide insight into the multiplicity of female identities in Chinese culture in the form of NOW: A Dialogue on Female Chinese Contemporary Artists. I was intrigued by the Chinese artist Ye Funa's work Family Album in which she took on the guises of each of her relatives to show intimacy and incorporated their voices from the interview. She reenacted the character of her mother and grandparents with humor, appropriation, and role-playing. As to me, it's a creative strategy to show a narrative within the traditional private sphere. 

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It is a truism that the experience of the 90s of China drove me to ponder the counterpart of identification with gender and domestic space as well prompted an investigative studio process in which I used to inhabit in such an area. We both manipulate old family photos to show subjective memory.

 

As we know, back then we wouldn't take a photograph in a wasteful way. These family photos have this expensive and precious feature that contains lots of conventions, and it's the key moment of these people's life trajectory. However, photographs, as is known they are not mean to be representational, while that never has restrained painting. Between Ye and me, we were trying to show a different intention within our work while I was messing with my memory.

 

Human memory is notoriously unreliable, and photos from the past are almost an unreliable witness in that respect. Scientists have found that prompting an eyewitness to remember more can generate outright false details, but that feels just as correct to the witness as actual memories. In day-to-day life, this isn't a bug; it's a feature. My paintings here also become an unreliable witness in that respect. 

Autobiographical Memory and the Construction of a Narrative Self Developmental and Cultural Perspectives

The narrative gives meaning to the past event and thus to the self, thereby providing the essential link between the past and the self. The task of preserving memory is difficult when it comes to art because there is inevitably tension between an object intended by the subjective mind and the objective fact or even it is mean to depict. Yep, it might be inaccurate to draw from one perspective and it's common that the cultural framework has always been neglected. 

Though art is functions as a cathartic process for most of the artists. Part of me uses reminiscent childhood fragments to explore the fantasy, part of me is using my art to speak for a certain group of people who had experienced the same.

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