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Cemetary with neat lines of headstones.

Bitter Art

My personal view is that art can only be expressed through tragedy, hence it can only be expressed in an aesthetic of bitterness. As for a sense of beauty that departs from pain and bitterness such as that which seeks to please with its sweetness, [or] that which is occasionally encountered in the flow of nature...- all these can hardly be considered Art.

Ho Huai-shuo (1969)


Disentangling the strands that contribute to beauty remains a perennial riddle. A puzzle which plagues artists either directly or, even if they personally are disinterested in ‘irrelevant abstractions’, through their patrons and audiences. It is difficult to resist the word beautiful Herders on bridge with cattle against sunset over river. Ho may not want to consider natural beauty as art, but it is certainly the word we reach for. for Ho’s haunting synthesis of traditional Chinese painting and modern conceptualization. Ho chooses the word bitter where piquant, disquieting or disturbing might come more readily to mind. His pictures have a surface often without a shred of bitterness, but there is always a depth into which we are invited. Photographs do not easily Shafts of light on the landscape north of Sa Pa in Vietnam. Over wonder, and therefore inevitably, beauty, photographers are reticent.
emulate such art; but maybe the point he is making can be glimpsed in the blind eye of the window above which might seem to refer to the hardships A spider's web between stalks.
Another way that the arts link to negative aspects of life.
that drove the people from the lands of Kerry, so offering a depth to the pleasure Shafts of light through clouds hitting the sea. ‘Pleasure’ is a weak word for the rich vein that the idea of ‘light’ taps. of the dancing light on the photograph’s surface.

From the Aesthetic of Bitterness, quoted in the introduction to Interior Realms of Ho Huai-shuo by Joan Stanley-Baker published by HIBIYA CO LTD Hong kong (1981) ISBN 7722530-4. His name also appears in Google as Ho Hui-shau, Huaishuo, and He Huai-shuo. It is possibly a little annoying to quote references and works that are less mainstream for us in the west, and I have rarely done so, but I hope you will agree, on seeing them, that the originality of his paintings deserve to be promoted by your searches! Some of his works that have been sold in recent years can be seen via:

Ruined cottages near the shore in Kerry, western Ireland.

Above, hovering on blue introduces a link: click to go, move away to stay.


Saturday 17th September 2022

Murphy on duty to this site