by Lucy ArchibaldPart Two of the Ashmolean’s Chinese Prints exhibition showcases the work of established Chinese printmakers to Western audiences for the first time. The Chinese tradition of print-making is over a thousand years old, but this modern collection is more dynamic than dusty. Without the shock value of a more avant-garde exhibit, it is subtly disarming for its plethora of “alien” terms and references to less than familiar print techniques and events from Chinese history. Nevertheless, the colourful range of styles, subjects and images on offer – spanning a period of Chinese history which has evolved at an unprecedented rate – is both satisfying and stimulating. If you consider Chinese prints synonymous with water lilies and perhaps the odd reed-warbler, this collection will subvert your expectations. The exhibition does include Zheng Shuang’s Black Peony, White Peony, which is representative of the artist’s exclusive interest in floral subjects post-1970, but in general, the collection is indicative of the powerfully politically charged tendencies of print-making now. Perhaps the most moving of these is Wong Gongyi’s delicately entitled Autumn Wind and Rain (1980) which depicts at severely intimate quarters Qiu Jin, the poet, revolutionary and symbol of female independence, who campaigned against the binding of women’s feet and selling of women into slavery. Wong Gongyi’s print depicts the moments before her execution; monochrome and cut with hard lines, the medium of the piece seems to reflect its unsettling subject. This anguish is further reflected in the artist’s description of the creative process: “…dripping with sweat and tears, in a small storage room, my heart filled with grief and indignation.”Equally unsettling, perhaps, is the sense of a pervasive propaganda “theme”, particularly in the work of the 1950-70s. Next to Qiu Jin’s intense and unsmiling face is a representative of the Sichuan School – Xu Kuang and A Ge’s The Master (1978), depicting a Tibetan farmer in the Soviet style with axe in hand as a grinning and accessible heroic figure. In Reading Hard (1962) another Tibetan figure, a male shepherd in this instance, sits placidly reading amidst a monochrome yet bustling pastoral scene. The artist, Li Huanmin, seems to suggest that Communism has thrown off this individual’s shackles and in contrast he now sits reading. The description of the subject “reading hard”, however, seems intended to collide the leisure of reading with hard work and thus imbue the subject with a level of Communist acceptability. The artist acknowledges this political dimension to his work, regarding it as providing historical insight at the level of the individual: “I depict people, their noble characters, their rich inner world and their graceful bearing, because people are the motive force of history.” Zhang Chaoyang summarised his artistic project rather differently: “Beauty and freedom have been the goal of my aesthetic pursuit.” Yet he represents a strikingly similar scene in his autumnally-hued Heroes and Heroines Are All Around (1970) which (rather obediently, we suspect) chronicles a harvest scene in the midst of the Cultural Revolution when the artist volunteered to go to the Great Northern Wilderness. Subsequently, Zhang Chaoyang’s work was to become less propaganda-influenced and instead preoccupied with female classical beauty. This development is perhaps prefigured in the pretty girl clad in communist garb, who sits scribbling in the foreground of the scene. This recurrent artistic focus upon an individual pulled from a crowd seems somewhat incongruous with the political systems they articulate.The most recent work demonstrates a more satirical or at least enquiring edge. Kang Ning’s Forest (2004) in particular shows a progression from the earlier prints, while Li Yili’s Hometown Record with its mingling of realist and fantasy elements enacts his artistic intention to ‘create’ “…one’s ideal world” rather than merely document that already in existence. Short, if not sweet, this concise exhibition will certainly leave you with plenty to ponder, and is the ideal reason to finally (!) make it through the doors of the Ashmolean. Chinese Prints runs until the 24th of February.
Congressional lawmakers spent two days last week asking Fed Chairman Jerome Powell during his Capitol Hill testimony how the Federal Reserve was prepared to respond if/when the coronavirus impacts the U.S. economy. Chairman Powell delivered the expected “we’ll do whatever it takes” speech without going into the details of exactly what that means. Powell then turned the tables on committee members who were questioning him, scolding the Washington lawmakers for the U.S. government’s projected $1 trillion annual deficits over the next decade (source: Congress).The death toll from the coronavirus, officially called Covid-19, reached nearly 1,800 by yesterday afternoon (2/17/20). Estimates from the Center for Disease Control warn that the virus could linger for at least all of calendar year 2020. Only 15 positive cases have been reported in the U.S.A., remarkable given that more than 71,000 people have been infected globally. The most lethal health epidemic in the last 500 years was the worldwide flu outbreak that occurred in the fall of 1918 that killed 50 million people, including 675,000 Americans. A staggering 195,000 Americans died in October 1918, the deadliest month in our nation’s history (source: Center for Disease Control).Americans have added to their household debt load for 22 consecutive quarters through 12/31/19. The debt total nationally is $14.15 trillion today, dominated by mortgage debt (68% of the overall total), student loans (11%), and auto loans (9%) (source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York).Notable Numbers for the Week:E.U. AND U.S.A. – The 27-nations that comprise the European Union (post-Brexit) have a population of 446 million and a combined economy of $18 trillion. The United States has a population of 329 million and an economy of $22 trillion (source: Census Bureau).CORONAVIRUS IMPACT – China is forecasted to use 25% less oil per day in February 2020 when compared to its actual usage in February 2019, a drop of 3.2 million barrels a day, i.e., from a consumption of 12.9 million barrels a day to 9.7 million barrels a day (source: International Energy Agency).HOMES – The construction of 888,100 new single-family homes began in 2019, the 8th consecutive year of increasing home building. In the decade of the 2010s, 6.8 million new homes began construction, down 44% from the 12.3 million new homes that were started in the decade of the 2000s (source: Census Bureau).HARD TO ENJOY RETIREMENT – More than half of American workers (54%) have not started a defined contribution retirement plan at work (e.g., a 401(k) plan) or have access to a defined benefit pension plan funded exclusively by their employer (source: Center for Retirement Research at Boston College).Presented by:Mark R. Reimet CFPCERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERJodie BoothFINANCIAL PLANNER
Bakery manufacturer Dawn Foods has launched a Tulip Muffin range, consisting of five new muffins individually wrapped in tulip-style brown paper cups.They are available in toffee chocolate, Belgian chocolate and cappuccino, blueberry, lemon and triple chocolate varieties, and have been developed to meet the demands of the coffee shop and café sector. The toffee chocolate muffin contains milk chocolate chunks, toffee fudge pieces and contains a caramel cream sauce. The Belgian chocolate and cappuccino variety contains coffee, vanilla flavour, plain and milk chocolate chunks and is topped with plain chocolate flakes. The blueberry muffin features wild blueberries, while the lemon variety contains chopped lemon peel and Sicilian lemon oil, and is injected with lemon curd. The triple chocolate muffin contains plain, milk and white chocolate chunks, with a topping of milk chocolate chunks.All the products are between 120g and 134g and have a shelf-life of five days once defrosted. They also meet 2010 FSA salt targets.www.dawnfoods.com