So, while I’m going back in time to fish out what Ai Weiwei is up to in the year 1979, I figure I’ll just keep going to 1932. This of course is a bit far for Weiwei to follow, and so I’m looking instead at what his father was up to when he was 22 years old (or so). In Ai Weiwei’s case, he was revolutionizing the language of visual art, setting the stage for China’s contemporary art movement. Similarly, Weiwei’s father Ai Qing, recently returned from his three year study tour in France where he was also a painter, was preparing to revolutionize China in even more significant ways (Ai Qing later to become a powerful cultural figure in the Chinese Communist Party). Prior to this, though, he was making his mark on the art of poetry, with, among others, the following composition:
“When Dawn Puts On White Clothes
(on the train from Paris to Marseilles)”
Amidst grove upon grove of violet trees
And through the gray-green hills
Are green grasslands,
Upon which drifts
–a fresh milky mist
Ah, as dawn puts on white clothes,
The plains are this fresh!
The faint yellow electric light
of lamp posts shuttering out their final rays.
(Xiandai 现代 1.5 1932: 616)
Though topically certainly different works (from the “Scenery” below), they are stylistically related, a fact which marks the somewhat curiously circular path of Chinese modernity, not to mention, at least for me, a pleasing continuity in this particular family. All else aside, they still produce some beautiful works (even if 灰绿 is a difficult word to translate). “Look.”