Sunday, December 19, 2010

Pipa 2 – 0 Koto

Pipa player (Janet Hsieh)
15" x 6"
oil on plexi-glass, 2010

Another goal for pipa. Pipa is up two now against koto. After a musical comparison the pipa was also ahead when it came to  comparing visuals. I believe this is largely due to the introduction of the pipa into pop culture whereas the koto is still reminiscent of an old rigid tradition. Indeed, the picture I chose to paint from, as an illustration to the melody Xiang Yu, The Conqueror Removing His Armour by the pipaist Chen Yin (whose picture I could not find), is an image of a present day celebrity named Janet Hsieh, a Taiwanese-American model/musician appearing in a video by fellow Taiwanese-American superstar Wang LeeHom playing pipa. As a guitar-like string instrument the pipa has the advantage over the koto in that one can play it like a rock star. Its real Japanese equivalent is not the koto but the biwa, while the koto finds its relative in the Chinese guzheng. The pipa melody is the fifth recording from China in the Top 100 so far while Japan, a traditional Top 100 heavyweight, is not represented yet. It is not all gloom for Japan though, there is hope on the horizon as I re-discovered a recording made by the Imperial Palace Band in 1903! With its In-a-Gadda-da-Vida like intro it could beat all Chinese competition and will certainly find its place high up the ranks of this year's Top 100.

About a painting depicting Janet Hsieh

Within the larger tradition of painting every year one hundred musicians, exists the tradition of painting one of the musicians on top of the palette used for the other paintings. It used to be the very last painting I did for a Top 100 (often #100) but the timing changed to the moment a palette was worn out and I was in need of a new one. That moment arrived a few days ago. Paint was piled so thick on the palette that it became too hard to use it again. I turned this dirty palette around and around and again, comparing various source materials, until the image of Hsieh and her pipa started to form itself on my retina. I used the paint still malleable on the palette to shape the image and used fresh, clean paint from a fresh, clean, and new palette to finish it.

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