Chi­nese artist’s paint­ings evoke a sense of Cartier-Bres­son’s pho­to­graphs

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFE - By LIN QI linqi@chi­ ings

Ma Mingze’s oil paint­ings re­mind you of works by French pho­tog­ra­pher Henri Cartier-Bres­son (1908-2004). Though both work with dif­fer­ent medi­ums, they both de­pict day-to-day scenes in a way that give view­ers an un­real feel­ing.

Bres­son fo­cused on peo­ple strug­gling at the bot­tom of so­ci­ety and pro­duced works that look like clas­sic snap­shots of eter­nity.

Sim­i­larly, Ma, 34, cre­ates cin­e­matic scenes in her paint­ings with a sim­ple pal­ette. She dwells on the em­bar­rass­ments, con­fu­sions and im­per­fec­tions of daily life in an ur­ban set­ting.

Dozens of the Bei­jing-based artist’s oils are now on show at her solo ex­hi­bi­tion Freeze A Mo­ment, be­ing held at the Parkview Green Art gallery in Bei­jing’s 798 art district through Aug 20.

“Ma cap­tures de­tails that are over­looked by peo­ple when they are busy with work and fam­ily af­fairs. Things like hair on a pil­low, fly­ing cur­tains, women’s an­kles and a wardrobe which is slightly open,” says Kim Mi-young the ex­hi­bi­tion’s aca­demic di­rec­tor.

“A sen­si­tive and a keen ob­server, Ma paints these or­di­nary un­avoid­able ev­ery­day mo­ments on can­vas. She re­veals the anx­i­eties of peo­ple liv­ing a seem­ingly peace­ful life.”

A fre­quent movie­goer, Ma says that when she paints she imag­ines her­self as a film di­rec­tor vi­su­al­iz­ing an episode from the script.

She searches for ma­te­rial in her mem­ory and puts it to­gether with her brush.

“When I read a book, I pic­ture a lot of sce­nar­ios and keep them in my mind. When I am touched by cer­tain scenes in a film, I re­mem­ber them,” she says.

“And some­times some things or some peo­ple in real life will awaken these mem­o­ries, based on which I re-cre­ate and pro­duce paint­ings.”

Se­cret, a paint­ing on show, is in­spired by the 2001 Chi­nese movie In the Mood for Love.

Ma says she was cap­ti­vated by a scene in which the pro­tag­o­nist speaks softly to a hole on a tree.

She says the man views the tree as an old friend to whom he can con­fide his wor­ries, and she re­mem­bers that af­ter he fin­ishes, he stuffs the hole with grass and mud as a way to seal his deep­est se­crets.

“His act is mean­ing­less but it en­thralls me.”

She says that one day when she was anx­ious she re­called the scene. So, she cre­ated a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion in Se­cret: She painted a wall at a street cor- ner and one of its bricks had a small hole.

“When I painted it, I imag­ined a scene in which a man slowly passes an al­ley and stops be­fore the wall. There, he lights a cig­a­rette and speaks to the hole as he smokes, and in the end, he fills the hole with the cig­a­rette stub.”

She says that some­times peo­ple need to seal their pains and for­get their past so that they can move on.

Ma, a na­tive of north­east­ern Liaon­ing prov­ince, failed in English at her col­lege en­trance ex­ams when she was seek­ing to en­ter the Luxun Academy of Fine Arts in Shenyang. So, she stud­ied for another year to get into the academy’s oil paint­ing depart­ment.

She re­ceived her bach­e­lor’s and mas­ter’s de­grees from the depart­ment.

She then taught at a mid­dle school in Bei­jing, be­fore she quit to pur­sue a ca­reer as a pro­fes­sional painter.

Among her other works is a paint­ing called Mag­pie, which re­flects her early ex­pe­ri­ences.

The work shows a girl who gazes at the sea and a mag­pie stand­ing on its head.

“The mag­pie is seen as an aus­pi­cious bird in Chi­nese cul­ture, a sym­bol of good wishes.

“In the paint­ing, I have it look­ing in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion, mean­ing that re­al­ity is of­ten not as per­fect as one an­tic­i­pates. Some­times it leads to em­bar­rass­ing sit­u­a­tions.”

Still, Ma em­braces hope in her works.

In Sil­ver Lin­ings, a work done af­ter she saw the 2012 Amer­i­can ro­mance Sil­ver Lin

Play­book, she is im­pressed by the ti­tle de­rived from the id­iom, “Ev­ery cloud has a sil­ver lin­ing.”

The paint­ing shows a dark room in which sun­light sneaks in through the nar­row gap be­tween the door and the floor.

She says view­ers can imag­ine them­selves be­ing some­one who re­turns to an apart­ment af­ter a hard day’s work.

“The head is low­ered be­cause of fa­tigue, but then you see light and feel re­lieved.

“In the dark­ness around us, there is the light of hope.”


fo­cuses on ur­ban life in her oil paint­ings now on show in Bei­jing.


Nina Zim­mer (se­cond right), di­rec­tor of Bern Mu­seum of Fine Arts, speaks at a news con­fer­ence af­ter the ar­rival of the first art­works.

Ma Mingze

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