In the first sentence of Hung Liu Pollock states, “Painting is a returned gaze upon an absence, a loss that is summoned back to meet us at the surface where the painter has worked and history has been invoked.” In other words, Pollock describes Liu paintings as a reimbursed western gaze on forgotten women, reclaiming them to history by depicting them as prostitutes, mothers, and warriors. For example, Liu’s paintings give a modern spin on old Chinese values and images. Pollock’s theory of absence symbolizes the lost history of the Chinese women, which explains why Liu uses historic photographs of China as her key theme in all of her paintings.
The multiple gazes layered throughout Liu’s painting Odalisque reclaim abandoned Chinese history with the use of traditional western medium. Pollock identifies three separate gazes in Odalisque, including the history of the photograph, the westernized painting techniques, and the viewer’s different perspectives of the painting. Converting the forgotten memory of a dejected Chinese prostitute and turning it into an elaborate westernized painting reclaims it to history. Although, Western furnishings along with a Victorian-style backdrop directs the viewer’s gaze away from the innocent child and replaces it with a decorated commercialized painting. Odalisque embodies an image of a Chinese prostitute and offers a comparison of forgotten Chinese history and the history of the photograph, while also presenting an eye-catching gaze to its viewers.
Pollock describes Liu’s medium of fluidity as an unmovable photograph suffused with color and contrast bringing out the true beauty of the once tiny insignificant photo. With the use of traditional Chinese techniques while offering a sufficient amount of western influence, Liu’s paintings help reclaim Chinese culture to the innovative socialized public. Liu’s use of color releases the stiffness of the photograph, bringing it to life for the first time, while allowing different...
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