Walasse TING (Xiong-Quan DING) (1929-20120), also name as “Flower Gangster”. It is said that Ting is the only Asian artist who admitted that he enjoys services providing by prostitutes. (I have the impression there are some other Asian artists who claimed that they also enjoy sexual services, but those artist are either not in the field of making sculptures or painting, or aren’t good enough in aesthetics.) Throughout Ting’s life, he was forthright, sincere and generous, and very honest to his own feelings. Ting loved female nudes. He studied figures of female and has reached great achievement. Ting’s <Goya’s Lover> (as follows), Ravenel’s Taipei sold for US$ 0.35 million in December 2006, which is his highest price of artwork ever sold for the time being.
Goya’s Lover, Walasse TING, 127*178 cm, 1977
Ting is renown for his oil and acrylic paintings of female beauties. Take the following artwork for example, <Do You Like Red Roses?> The painting is colorful and full of vivid rhythm, yet the artist uses joyful composition of sexual sensations to express mental sorrow of a sexual worker. Ting is one-of-the-kind master of art.
Someone has alleged that Ting’s artwork is originated from the Dutch painter, Kees van Dongen (1877-1968), such as Portrait (as follows). Therefore, I particularly did a research of the artist by studying his illustrations.
By drawing color blocks in key spots and putting down few trace lines, Dongen captures the spirit of an elegant lady by a few brushstrokes. As a matter of fact, some touches of Ting (such as the eyes) and the arrangement of Ting’s color blocks are similar to Dongen’s, but they are by no means plagiaries. In the vast universe of Western art, any stroke from anybody may draw association with another stroke from a previous master. Plagiarism must contains identical expression and spirit, or with the same core of thoughts. While initially captivating the audience with “joy” and “ physical sexuality”, Ting’s paintings are memorable for turning his “joy” into “sorrow”, which are absent from Dongen’s artworks. Some has also claimed that Ting’s art is “an art of joy”, nevertheless, I believe “sadness” is the core of his art, similar to the feeling of “singing madly instead of crying in the moment of great sorrow”.
If Ting copies Dongen, does that mean the inner spirit of Ting’s prostitutes resembles Dongen’s elegant ladies? Female readers, please rebut the awful argument for me.
Do You Like Red Roses? Walasse TING, 1983
Strictly speaking, Ting’s artworks integrate Kees van Dongen’s art and Jackson Pollock’s drip painting style, then adding a bit of light-hearted mood and sexuality. With so many combinations and variations, in addition to Ting’s vibrant lifestyle of light-hearted mood and sexual sensations, the “core of thoughts” in Ting’s artwork comes from his heart. A+B plus his own core of thoughts resulting in a stronger effect than merely A+B, which is not a simple addition in math at all. To me, Ting’s art is nothing related to copying.
Portrait, Kees van Dongen
A closer look at Ting’s watercolor paintings, Three Parrots (as follows), reveals an lively painting with vivid rhythm composing by colors with similar saturation and variation of different colors of pink. Ting shows viewers that he can surely create interesting paintings without Pollock’s drip painting style.
Ting’s artworks always remind me of the later half of Yong LIU’s lyric poetry, <Rain on Imperial Bell>:
Passionate lovers mourn the sorrow of departure,
As it has always been.
But the chilly autumn brings much bitter grief.
If only I am sober again,
Where will I awake tonight?
Nowhere but the banks of willow trees under a fading moon with morning breeze.
For years to come,
All the good times and grand scenery will be wasted.
Even though I have thousands of love and affection to give,
Who should I share with?
Ting treated his friends with generosity, spent money extravagantly and addicted to women. His personality united with his art as one. Ting is truly a complete artist.
Three Parrots, Walasse TING, 1981
Apart from sensational women and parrots, Ting also explored abstraction, such as the following painting, <Love>. At first, it seems like an abstraction, but looking at the painting in more detail, it is in fact an extremely brilliant figuration depicting oral sex. Color blocks of the painting are arranged in a fairly balanced composition. Three diagonal lines and four blocks compose an interesting picture of sexuality. Ting again reminds us that he understands prostitutes much more than Dongen.
Love , Walasse TING, 1968
There is no trace of copying Western masters in Ting’s art. In Asian art society, it is considered a great artwork as long as the artist speaks his own independent and mature language without plagiarism. If I have to point out any defect of Ting’s artwork, maybe I will say his paintings are quite similar, hence his content is a little bit too simple. Can an artist spend all his life focusing on studying one subject- female nudes? Can female nudes become core of thoughts? Why not? I firmly believe it is an example to prove that Ting is a sincere artist who follows his own heart, so I am more than happy to give him an A as a second rank artist in my list. Although Ting may not be the grand master who shakes art history, he is absolutely a star in his field. Ting is a good example that an artist will certainly reach great achievement as long as he is sincere and honest to his thoughts without copying.
At the moment I was writing this article, Ting was seriously ill and not be able to compose new artworks. (In 2007, a Taiwanese auction house actually deceived the public by spreading fake news about Ting’s death to raise the price of his painting. This auction house is extremely wicked in terms of cherishing precious artists.) Our “Flower Gangster” had such an exceptionally aesthetic life, perhaps he had no regret and would be an extraordinary figure in the afterlife.