by Lily X. Yang
Chinese Paper Cutting, one of my favorite types of traditional Chinese design, has been adapted to the digital creative processes to reflect the contemporary Chinese social environment. The form of Paper Cutting itself is distinctive for the highly stylistic and symbolic design, while the themes cover a huge variety of activities that average people, particularly rural residents engage. With pleasant colors and shapes, this type of decorations are usually produced to serve the celebration of Chinese New Year. During the coldest days of a year, family members enjoy this simple yet captive creativity, and merrily “publish” their artworks by pasting them on the doors and windows (therefor they are also referred to Window Flower 窗花).
I find it is fascinating to observe the contrast between the two layers of imagery on a window – the ideals and happiness presented with the red paper cutting, and the grayish, chilly reality behind it. From the very beginning, I question that what is hidden underneath the seemingly hopeful, in fact rather bitter bright red, which gradually becomes ironically connected with the famous slogan educating our Young Pioneers of China, ‘The Red Scarf is dyed with the Martyr’s blood”…
The following digital images (by Lily) mimicking the style of Paper Cutting have been displayed in Land of Illusion since 2006:
Chinese Cutting Paper & Financial Crisis in 2008
At the end of 2008, the quiet city we’re located in southeast Massachusetts, is unexpectedly under the shadow of financial crisis. When the city community art center, Artworks! Gallery, asked us to join the New Year Eve celebrations along with the City Hall Opening Ceremony, the director particularly implied we might present some type of art with “hopeful messages” under current crisis resulting impact on most Americans’ lives. I randomly browsed a book by my hand, Chinese Cutting Paper, and pointed to the patterns and explained symbolic meanings behind. For some reason she was immediately responded to “Double Happiness,” and picked another called “good fortune/business going up” (picture below). I rather see it as a irony in the context of economic and political conditions for not only American, but Chinese, and their elusive relationship.
The particular pattern is a symbol of “Good Business” or “Good Fortune,” with clouds implying “high state” surround an ancient Chinese coin in the center. Lily & Honglei created the digitized the Chinese cutting paper in the circumstance global economic crisis 2008 -2009, or Chinese OX year. What does it represent? One can have completely understanding. For the artists, it is important to say, that we have seen the ill society, and we are not stop here, but suggest a reflection upon globalization’s impact on culture and individual, more importantly, ask ourselves, “where do we come from? What has made a life worth living?” If a meaningful life is rooted in our own cultural heritages, as artists in the Internet era, can we preserve them by visualizing our traditions with digital technology? We need a bridge connecting the deepest inside world and the globalize environment!
The gallery director suggested me to explain the relations of this type of folk art in China and America, the new year on lunar/solar calender, and their meanings. I consider despite the similar visual representations, techniques, Chinese cutting paper is distinctive because it retains highly symbolic tradition of design, which are mostly created by women, and produced at the turn of a new year. For these reasons, yesterday, I realized that a pattern, I previously made in digital format, might be appropriate for the year of ox coming up Jan.26th, 2009. It is a vision, a result of some interlaced dreams and nightmares (picture below).