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LUCILLE WONG PAINTER, ENGRAVER AND DRAUGHTSWOMAN
Robin Bond

THE SKIN OF MEMORY
Alfonso Sánchez Arteche

THE NUDE IN LUCILLE WONGS'S PAINTING
E.R.Blackaller

 

XINANTÉCATL: SCORCHED TIME
MY TRIP TO SEVEN VOLCANIC ENCLAVES

Lucille Wong

     

 

LUCILLE WONG PAINTER, ENGRAVER AND DRAUGHTSWOMAN

Robin Bond


We live in an age of constant conflictual change, and much of the Art of this present time reflects this condition. Some of it, which pretends avant-garde originality is very little more than the expression of desperately fragmented thought and feeling; posing as the new awareness, as though continuity, wholeness, and timelessness had become alien concern belonging to lost past. This obsession with newness arises from an emptiness at the heart of modern society.

The work of Lucille Wong makes no pretense of newness. She works in an awareness of the timelessness of all genuine Art and, most especially, the Art of ancient China, seeking participation now in this vital present. Her originality exists in the nuances she gives to the everlasting principles of the ancient Tao as a way of life on distorted by-notions of progress in Art. For her are no contradictions, but variations on this timeless theme, of which she feels herself to be an essential expression; belonging yet unique, profoundly related yet freshly to the present. Is this a pretentious freshness, full of love, care, and dignity which emanates from her work.

México City, 1983

 

THE SKIN OF MEMORY

Alfonso Sánchez Arteche


With its violent eruptions, convulsions and pacification, life has a volcanic quality. Beginning with a series of sudden explosions, everything finally settles into a silent, crystallized layer at the mercy of erosion. These are the scars of time.

Lucille Wong, a glance that embraces manifold requests. Poetry and botany, music and geology determine the rhythm of her expression in a burning world that consumes itself without ever having attained consummation. Her plastic statement is a voyage into the fire from the ashes, a refiguring of the Earth’s germinal dance based on the mutism of its fossil covering, scorched time embraced.

As the diary of an adventure over the body's topography, the cyclical flow of nature in its eruptions and congealment, the cage and burial of notes on lined paper, all that Lucille Wong retains and materializes through her illumination does not stagnate on the surface. Rather, it speaks of stratification and lode, the telluric acknowledgement of the ravages of time, a clear testimony of an adult pupil who has evolved from bewilderment to lucidness.

The selection of pieces composing Scorched Time highlights the creative maturity of a volcano collector who, cone by cone, from one continent to another, has expressed her amazement and compiled her reflections on the drama of fire defeated by snow by reaching the summit of Xinantécatl, the only crater that can be reached by land.

Glancing into the abyss of creation. Her fascination with caressing the origins of the world and returning to the womb of the Earth upon which we walk is derived from an intimate oratory of visual chords; Lucille Wong dedicates her symphonic poem to the mutilated giant of Mexico's highland plateau.

However, we must strive to understand the full essence of this exhibition to appreciate Lucille Wong’s internal landscape in all its harmony and dissonance, point and counterpoint. Indeed, it is a microcosm easily shaken by the force of a blade of grass, yet stands fearlessly before infinity, challenging it with fundamental questions on the injustice of existence.

 

Bibliography: Lucille Wong: Tiempo abrasado. Catalog. Bilingual edition, spanish, english. Texts by Leonel Sánchez, Lucille Wong and Alfonso Sánchez Arteche. Museo de Bellas Artes de Toluca, 2005. 65 illustrations. 40 pp.

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THE NUDE IN LUCILLE WONGS'S PAINTING

E. R. Blackaller


We are not seekers of mystery, we are the mystery. Pablo Neruda

Art is not platonic. Jorge Luis Borges

In 1974 Lucille Wong put an end to her modern literature studies at the National Autonomous University of Mexico and that same year, mysteriously (we are viewing a 24-year old woman), she organized her first solo painting exhibition in an improvised gallery in Chimalistac. We do not know if it was inner conflict, the struggle of voices and signs, the clash of impulses that stirred up pure contradictions or the silent dispute of desires; no duality of opposing forces no matter how intense they might seem could explain such an individual act of freedom and obstinacy. Thus, faced with two paths, direct will, sudden enlightenment: without auguries and without presages, the calling of a lifetime alit on the kingdom of the image. Passion and fire for letters gave way to evidence and little by little they were relegated to the realm of forgotten intentions and oblivion; their final embers faded away in 1976 in Canterbury at the University of Kent. There, in a suburban workshop, ceramics replaced and fondly bade farewell to T. S. Eliot. There was no rebuff or condemnation, simply the choice of another language: the idiom of light, the grammar of forms and composition, the syntax of line and color, volume and space, the expressive prosody of rhythm, texture, contrasts. This is the inscrutable part of art; these are its enigmatic translations. The choice of another language as a revelation and discovery: recognizing that sensibility and personal aptitudes were enclosed in the singularity of visual perception, in its unequivocal poetics. It is strange, but the first person who noticed Lucille Wong possessed uncommon faculties was Guillermo Santi, master and teacher of the human figure, who after a while of imparting his lessons to her, rejected her as a student “to avoid hurting her,” as he put it. These words were a sign that led to the calling of art and her discovery of destiny. After a few years, a master of her self, sure of the power of her language and of the uncontaminated confidence of her senses, with a clearly defined character, and without the technical restraints of a given school or style, she undertook the construction of a visual world in which the earth and the human being unfolded as an act of accumulation and subjugation.

Seduced by the splendor of the nude, she then began an approach to the human figure that would last 16 years (1978–1994) under the discrete but sensitive guidance of Robin Bond, a brilliant facet that reflects, in more than a thousand works (including some sketchbook pages of cherished finds and predilections), an intense and peaceful gaze, fierce and reflective, on the contradictory nature that surrounds the human being and the human condition. The immense cycle—curiously only a few pieces have been exhibited in biennales, auctions, and exhibitions—spans a dizzying thematic range and represents, in the context of late twentieth-century Mexican painting, the decision to enter with unquestionable abandon the intimate world of the human being and the intention to interpret its registers and mysteries with passion. In all of the nudes, there is a clear attempt to explore the depths, to reach the deep foundations, and the ambivalent interior, luminous or in shadow, in a forbidden, strange precinct, far away from us and that only creative intuition is capable of revealing. As a result of the uncertain ambiance surrounding it, the hidden resonance that it awakens, and of the fusion and mixture and opposition of sleep and wakefulness, innocence and perversion, radiance and darkness, taboos and profanation, the realm of bodies exposed to the elements has always been a sacred zone surrounded by the inaccessible aureole of secrecy. Nevertheless, this simultaneously rough and tender precinct has frontiers open to joy and pain, desperation and balance, serenity and anguish, in which the agony of love and the plundering of time coexist and draw near, awareness of the evanescent flow and the perfection of ages, sensual pleasure and metaphysical fiction and paralysis, the plenitude of equivocal or imperfect form, and the triumph of woman when the reflection of line transfigures her into water, wind, nocturnal enchantress, spring, zenith, harvest. This precariously described milieu is the true substance of the nude, which is shown to the gaze. Under the influence of western traditions, man, although not excluded, occupies a secondary position quantitatively. The explanation is simple, in Robin Bond’s workshop there was an abundance of female models, while male models were rare.

(A parenthesis: there is nothing more distant from Lucille Wong’s aesthetic universe than the shipwreck of the image, the caricature of the nude with which the mass media denigrates to electronics, an obscene disguise of self-deception and vulgar pleasure, sordid realism, suicide for taste: Sartre on Jean Genet: the obscene is what lacks grace. There is nothing further from Lucille Wong’s aesthetic world than the subjective nude, doubly stripped and twisted, mask and disguise of inner decay, redundant emptiness, grotesque parody.)

 

The nudes—including the artist’s recent production—are more than refined compositions from a series based on the theme (pretext) of the human figure; they are works that are a triumph in the plenitude of form, the identity of the image with itself. Each piece addresses a different matter, when it is rich in elusive aspects and imperceptible details, it multiplies and generates a defined group (sphinxes, torsos, prehistoric Venuses, Mexican beauties, for example). The way the object is approached is customary in figurative painting, but the nudes are not restricted to any academic procedure consecrated by useless repetition. They abound in unprecedented solutions, more than unprecedented, unexpected, surprising, alien to predetermined canons. The lessons and ties of the painter with Robin Bond firmly backed that method. The British artist knew full well what he was doing. His formula was not simple, but it was indeed effective: provoking the rapport of freshness and daring, freshness in perception and daring in the handling of techniques and materials, without scorning any medium or resource. Therefore, she always worked with a model, with the individuality and singularity of living beings, objects, and phenomena: first the specific, the specific always in sight. Art, said the Argentine writer, is not platonic. That practice made it possible to verify flights of fancy in the results, the capacity in “the art of invention,” a virtue that accompanies works of enduring execution. All of this has solid foundations: perception is fresh and selective. The gaze simplifies and reveals clearing the way to the complex, insinuating the intelligent omission of unnecessary and trivial details. Behind the gaze is life, memory, and recollections; memory and recollections that are stored and configured from the time the artist is born (perhaps even earlier) until the moment that the brush is applied to the canvas. At that instant, not only does the individual memory work, but also the memory of people and time. Culture is, under greater scrutiny, the accumulated social memory: histories and dreams, experiences and failures, desires and fears, catastrophes, restless, ignorance and wisdom, everything is activated and takes on new radiance and significance in the act of creation that feeds a work.

Historical memory, the mirror of time, joins remote voices and visions of the past in the present and it makes them simultaneous, it invites and menaces painting to reflect on its screens, which are windows (collectors underscore that condition of oils, acrylics, watercolors, and prints with opportune and unnecessary frames), successive naked bodies of the species and looking at oneself in one’s own mirror to be able to endow the form with a foundation and to project its archetypes to that improbable future that is today.

Lucille Wong’s nudes establish a universe that is a system of images governed by succession and simultaneity. If each work is luminous, the group is as delirious as the quantity of pieces, its magnitude beyond the human scale. The only possible analogy for this macrocosm is with Borges’s story “El Aleph.” Perhaps the size of the nudes, a constant with only minor variations by a few centimeters, is no accident so the works can be seen, one after another, occupying the same nuclear space, as in Aleph. The plot and the matter, the theme and the object emerge from the same point: there is a Paleolithic proto-mother, the prehistoric Venus, the mythical primordial couple and illustrious women at the dawn of historical eras; there is a child woman and woman child, the sullen adolescent, the dancing nymph, and the hiding naiad, the exquisite young woman, the matron, the lady, and the owner, the old woman; there is the woman enslaved and as booty, the humiliating portrait of the degradation of man, the woman as victim of depredation within the family, the woman who sleeps alone caressed by the wind and the phantasms of dreams beneath a luminous sky; there is the victorious woman and the repudiated woman, the pretentious woman, the disdainful one, the indifferent one who turns the forgotten into a victory; there is love and rage, fury and pain, the dance and the fire that is extinguished and that succumbs; there is the couple that reposes in the sand, couples who hate each other in their mirrors, and couples who tolerate each other; there is the sphinx who interrogates with her gaze (are all women sphinxes?): Tamar moans and sobs, Penthesilea howls; Ariadne ponders, Nefertari doubts; there are vague shrines in the residences of Stabiae, Pompeii, and Herculaneum where priestesses officiated over nuptial rites; hierodules and followers of Cybele revoked their destiny and repudiated Cybele herself; there is Héloise who pines for her Abelard and a mutilated Abelard bleeding; the blaze of the siege of Numancia illuminates an anonymous woman who does not flee; without clothes, but with a bowler hat, Mr. Bloom gazes at us directly; there is the delicate innocence highly prized by Balthus and Nabokov and the paroxysm of the blind soliloquy of Francis Bacon, the destructive isolation; the eroticism and its thousand and one nights duplicated; there are images, images, images: Vasari paints the liberation of Andromeda by Perseus on a blackboard and Ingres copies the legendary woman as springing from a source onto a mirror in San Ángel, someone repeats the same operation; on sandy beaches unanimous girls repose in silence, nothing disturbs the eloquence of their bodies; maidens seen from the back watch over amazing sunrises and pensive sunsets in Tehuantepec, while others, who are absent, cultivate recondite gardens; there are languid damsels who seem to dissolve in light, athletic Valkyries, weighty gladiators, lovers who take the flames to the highest peaks where time does not transpire; there is the mother’s perpetual smile, the bolt of hatred, the devastating appearance of beauty in the mirrors of time; there is otherness and awe, the threshold and the abyss; there is a light on the horizon and a long summer afternoon; there are labyrinths of obsessions, moons, and towers, confusion and chaos, man and woman, the mystery and the mystery of the couple, fused borders of horror and loneliness, of glory and hope; there is the inalienable beauty of races; in Crete, in a sacred cave, young people move to the beat of rock; a Purepecha woman guards the corners of the universe with her eyes; there is the day of Saint John, the spontaneous happiness of water and the child; immemorial women from Nubia and Etruria, vestal virgins, distant sylphs, remote naiads; there is the primordial woman, the images of Venus from the Stone Age, the legendary primordial couple . . .

Aleph or Book of Revelation, the nudes are a cosmos defined by the word purity. To paint is to discover, to reveal what is hidden and underground, what is concealed behind what is visible. To reveal darkness with the skill of mastery requires a crystal clear language, Mozart is the classical paradigm. No one can shed light on opaque scenes or murky gloomy places with a confused language, whether it is a matter of humanity or of mythologies, past or present. And that which is difficult in the face of the enigmatic or the incomprehensible becomes arduous and rough in view of what is simple, such as pure joy or the elemental earth. I think that clarity is Lucille Wong’s key. In her activity, clarity operates from the start and bathes creation in each one of her phases; she works with it and engages it in dialogue, unequivocally joined to the matter of the image and the virtues of the means of expression, such as light to evoke transparency and color to render its dazzling qualities.

 

Bibliography: Lucille Wong: de los espejos del tiempo. Catalog. Bilingual edition, spanish, english. Texts by Sergio Montiel Romero, Jean – Demien Drouillet and E. R. Blackaller: El desnudo en la pintura de Lucille Wong. NAXICA Galería de Arte; BNP PARIBAS. México 2008. 28 illustrations. 56 pp.

 

 
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