Still life has always been a favorite subject of mine, even though it has often been seen as standard and uncreative. I contemplate in silence before starting to depict the subject and thus creating an artwork. As such, still life can been seen as a byproduct of my contemplations. Contemplating on the still life is also contemplating on oneself, on a certain kind of existence, the existence of the objects, of the table, of the background, of the connection between the viewer and the viewed. They are independent of each other, yet related. In Oriental still life, the “still” refers to the person. Completing a still life is like having gone through a period of solitude and being filled with serenity.
The still life of black table series utilized a concrete drawing technique to portray the main subject, creating a lifelike and realistic image. For instance, the freshness and beauty of the flowers bursting into bloom, the gentle texture of the glaze on the cups and plates, the clear and limpid lustre of soups and teas, and the tactile feel of the wooden veins and textures of the table, all of these stem from the artist showing every possible consideration. At the same time the artist has spent several years observing the minute changes of exterior light coming indoors, and used the special interlocking of light and shadow indoors to recreate the various ambiences of days and nights across the four seasons, of afternoon halos, or of the contrast of brightness and darkness in a faithful and lively visual display. Yet the treatment of the images also included many modern art techniques, such as rubbing or scraping on the canvas to create marks that resemble the wood grain of the table, or using automatic painting from abstract art to craft a random flowing effect, constructing the ambient lights and shadows of the background.
Peony in the Studio 63 × 45.5 cm (10F) Oil on Canvas 1995
Lily in a Quiet day 41 × 31.5 cm (6F) Oil on Canvas 1998
Joyful 72.5 × 60.5 cm (20F) Oil on Canvas 1999
Further, the elements that repeatedly appear in the paintings possess a symbolic character. For example, “flowers and plants” are the vitality and beauty of this world, “cups of tea” stand for a leisurely mood. “Books” imply the knowledge of the humanities, while the sturdy “wooden table or chair” represent a simple and quiet life. Lastlz, the rays of light in the background demonstrate the passage of time. Additionally, the artist has frequently use the style of flattening the image for the composition, giving the painting a distinctly modern feel. This style can be said to exist in the juxtaposition of classical and modern, concrete and abstract, realism and symbolism. Yet upon closer inspection, although the artist does have a personal visual style, her creative principle does not lie in a special style, nor forming symbols, but instead relates to the true inner meaning of life. Thus, the key lies in a return to a true experience of life.
The Holy Mother & Red Camellia I 130 × 97 cm (60F) oil on canvas 2013
May -Pomegranate Flower 130 × 97 cm (60F) oil on canvas 2013
Summer Night - Little Orchids 145.5 × 112 cm (80F) oil on canvas 2013
In recent years, the artist has derived the “White Table” style of series out of the “Black Table” series, turning the paintings more bright and lighthearted, giving off a fresh, cheerful, and elegant feeling. Simultaneously, she also created continuous canvas paintings, with no lack of large scale pieces among them. Due to intrinsic restrictions, still life paintings are rarely painted on canvasses larger than two meters a side. However, the artist uses the composition of the elements in the painting to deal with the image, thus ever approaching a modern thought of artistic production, in order to properly complete this new style of still life paintings. Concerning female artists, paintings filled with intense power are few and far between, but the confidence and boldness Dong demonstrates here is a display rarely seen elsewhere.
In conclusion, on the one hand the artist’s still life paintings draw from themes of Western art tradition, displaying the long-lasting and profound influence of Western painting. On the other hand, they also encompass the many aesthetic details contained in CHinese culture. THrough the interpretation and depiction of simple imagery, the paintings display the realizations of the Taoist masters Laozi and Zhuangzi, contemplating the outside world and the self. A kind of carefree interest in life emerges, and also brings about a calm and comforting type of mental therapy in the observer. The paintings contain a delicate aesthetic expressed through feminine grace, while at the same time possessing a powerful tension in the shapes, with a simple rustic kind of flow between them. This so-called “merging of East and West, coupling of strength and gentleness” as a creative concept has essentially received a fitting interpretation through the artist’s creative work.