By Ashley Mott,
Arts and Entertainment Editor
Upon walking into the Cleveland State University Art Galleries, there was an air of culture that could be felt, almost like being transported to a whole other part of the world.
When someone takes the time and effort to bring forward a little piece of the culture that they have known, it is a special experience. It doesn’t matter if that culture, is of Asian, Hispanic, African, South American or any other descent of people, it’s an experience that is made to be felt.
That is the kind of experience that happened within the walls of the Cleveland State Art Galleries, as it so graciously held the “Neither East Nor West” exhibit that was curated by none other than Cleveland State’s own art professor, Qian Li, along with Duan Jun.
Scuffling to the back of the gallery, the very first thing to catch the eye of the ART 281 class, there to preview the show, was the art piece titled “A Splendid Web from Heaven to Earth,” that was made from stainless steel chains, according to the catalog relating to the exhibit.
It had a beautiful and deadly quality to it, that could only be captured by something like a spider web. Inherently, they are beautiful creations done by arachnids that most of the world tends to fear. Spun and woven to create a home for the eight-legged creature, a web also the most deadly trap for the prey that are so unfortunate to fall into the sticky silk-like material.
The art piece mimicking this deadly beauty was breathtaking. Placed in the corner of the room, it took up a grand amount of space and drew students to it quickly. Anchored in rocks that looked very much like a sandstone material, students gazed upon it as the threads of steel glistened in the light, spanning from floor to ceiling. The steel material almost seemed to be translucent in areas, as the light glided across the surface, giving way to this illusion.
Even though this was the most eye-catching piece in the gallery, there were many others that captured the hearts of the students there. One piece, called “36 Cave,” was created by Guangbin Cai using ink on rice paper, and it drew a large amount of attention from the class
The piece had an almost liquid movement feeling to it. Its more traditional style of art was what was found to be most interesting about it. In movies and TV shows, most Asian art is portrayed in this ink on rice paper type of style, and since this is a style that many people are the most familiar with, it drew onlookers to it rather quickly.
In stark contrast with the simplicity of that art piece, there was the “White Elephant” piece, created by Lei Shi, that was an oil painting on a canvas. During the viewing of this art piece, students gasped as they looked upon a giant elephant standing atop the world, in a galaxy full of stars.
One student noted that it was “hard to grasp at first,” because the elephant is the largest land mammal still alive today, and its placement on top of the world was a startling contrast that we, as humans, are not used to.
The usage of a range of blues, blacks and purples to fabricate the mesmerizing contrast between the grey and white elephant, created tension points on the painting that drew a spectator’s eye around the piece of art naturally, almost as if they were a guiding hand.
Moving forward in the exhibit, there were many other traditional ink and color on rice paper works of art that decorated the halls. One, specifically, was a comment on Buddha himself. The painting called “Buddha’s Glorious Sunlight Covers All,” by Zhou Zhouzhou, shows what many cultures, who focus on the Buddhist religious aspects, may see as a guiding light for all.
The outline of the Buddha is teased with a rainbow of colors along the edges. Blues and reds can be seen bleeding off the edgeline into the outskirts of the page, in an almost watercolor style of art.
For those reading about Buddha in the classes offered here at Cleveland State University, it is interesting to see this artwork because for all its beauty in water color, the Buddha himself does not contain any features.
With no facial or body features, it would be hard to determine what cultural background it hails from without any of the context that was provided by Li, during the walk through.
Continuing to move on through the exhibit, one of the final paintings to catch the class’ attention was that which was called, “Peach” by Wei Qingji. Its loose lines and flowing vibrant red colors made the class “ooh” and “ahh” with delight as their eyes gazed upon it. However, the question that was on everyone’s mind was simple, “Why is it upside down?”
A student commented on how it was very unusual to see as the peaches that students knew and loved grew with the leaves on top, not the bottom. However, Li, was quick to inform those in the gallery that it was supposed to resemble the Apple ™ symbol that we see everywhere. Turned upside down, with a bite taken out of the right side, the painting did quickly start to look similar to the logo of the Apple ™ company.
Students were in awe of it, though it begged the question of whether or not this piece was simply created for beauty or if it was a comment on the world of technology. Unfortunately, one can never know; however, that will not stop one from inferring what they believe is the truth.
Last but not least, while it was not a painting, the work of art called “Orange Tree,” by artist Yu Xuan, was an incredible three-dimensional piece. The waxy fake leaves were almost identical to their living counterparts, and the oranges that were without a skin were as detailed and unique as a real one. Li commented on the nature of the skinless oranges growing from the tree, saying that it meant “they were open and available to everyone.”
Orange peels are often very hard to take off, and not everyone has the tools available to shed the skin easily. Having the oranges be skinless opens up the idea that all of the population is able to enjoy the orange, not just those privileged to have the tools necessary to peel them.
This idea, brought on by the professor’s comment, left many other questions reeling in the minds of the class. However, many were content with her answer and simply enjoyed the natural look of the piece and the serenity that comes with being around things similar to nature.
At the end of the day, everyone enjoyed a little piece of the exhibit. Spanning from paintings, sculptures, motion pieces and photographs, the curated pieces brought to life a new world for many who had never experienced these styles of Asian art.
Originally Published on The Cauldron.