Friday, August 9, 2013

Bananas and peaches. Amazing drawings by Zhang Dun at Chambers Fine Art

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I must be more pure than I thought (and I'm not sure whether that's a good thing or a bad thing.)  When I walked into Chambers Fine Art with a friend of mine and saw the amazing drawings of bananas and peaches, I was immediately impressed by how the artist captured a sort of perfect ripeness; the drawings were so well executed.  My friend, however, said, "Wow! This is really sexual stuff." Then I realized: Ooops, yeah, this stuff is obviously 'erotic.'  But it's not erotic just for the sake of being erotic.  I think that Zhang Dun is really making an interesting point about how the male and female sexual organs and sexual drives are perceived and even how they are utilized in art and literature.

In allegorical literature the masculine and the feminine often have a symbolic meaning. In the Odyssey or Faust, or any number of older works, you have the wandering, tormented, testosterone driven, struggling male who overcomes obstacles to seek his comfort or solace in the eternal feminine.  The man (Odysseus, for instance) wanders and fights and the woman (Penelope, for instance) stays home and weaves and waits.  The masculine seems to represent something active and searching while the feminine represents a passive ideal of spiritual solace for the man (or what the man represents symbolically).

That symbolic 'paradigm' (for lack of better terminology), of course, doesn't quite work these days, now that society has changed so radically over the generations and women are as active as men.

So what I like about Zhang Dun's work (beyond her amazing draughtsmanship) is her exploration of the male and female sex organs using analogs that allow a differing perspective from common notions of the masculine and feminine sex drives (and how they can be 'allegorized'). 

You no longer have the male penis as something harsh or piercing, for example.  This is no longer the penis of Faust, Dante or Odysseus.  The peach is not the vagina of Gretchen, Beatrice or Penelope. Both sex organs possess, basically, the same type of soft elegance.  Indeed, if we were to look for active and passive analogies here, the peaches would seem to be more "active" than the bananas.  The peaches are, in places, a deep red color, implying passion or desire.  The bananas seem to passively unfold instead of aggressively swell.

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