Why The Long Face? An Art Critique

I’ve known people who’ve said “I don’t feel like Chinese food today”. None of the people I’ve heard say that were Chinese. I’ll never say that either.

For some reason, after several thousand Chinese lunches, it occurred to me that Chinese restaurants are repositories of art. Most have some sculpture; almost all have at least one painting.

Today’s edition of my art criticism series takes on the painting that woke me up to the treasure troves of art that I’ve been missing.


Glassy Stare

This painting was created by an unknown artist. It is unique among the paintings I’ve critiqued because it is the only one rendered on glass. This allowed it to be viewed from either side of the wall it was mounted in.

From inside the restaurant, the painting took on a glow from the light outside. As patrons came and left, they cast shadows upon and through the painting. I’d like to tell you that the moving shadows caused a motion-like effect on the painting, but that wouldn’t be true.

The side facing the front door is different. The reflections of parked cars and passing traffic adds both texture and motion to an already busy painting.

A Deep Message

The painting depicts two groups of horses. The four toward the right side of my photograph are clearly running from the four horses to the left. Note the difference in expressions between the groups – those to the right are frightened and panicky. One of the frightened group looks over his shoulder to see how close the second group is.

On the left, the horses are focused, determined and fearless. They are in pursuit.

At first, the differing expressions and actions made me think that this painting had an anti-bullying message. The artist meant for us to see the dread in the eyes of what would be the victim horses as they are, once again, pursued by their tormentors.

I’m sure that as you read those last few sentences you thought, “yes, Oma, I see it now. It is very much an anti-bullying painting. I will change my ways.” If you thought that, you are wrong. Well, you’re not wrong to change your bullying ways, but this poster is not about bullying.

I know that because of the Chinese calligraphy at the top of the painting.

The Other Message, No Less Deep

What is really happening here is that the horses on the right have broken the rules, or perhaps even the laws, of horse society. Those to the left are in pursuit of the evil doers and will bring them to justice. They look fearless because their confidence is born of their just cause.

Look at the surfaces the two groups are running on. Those on the right run on a grass meadow. On the left, the horses run on the clouds, as if descending from heaven to take care of business.

The horse looking back from the group on the right recognizes that the jig is up. He is about to surrender. He realizes that he can’t possibly out run his pursuers because they’ve gathered tremendous momentum in their down hill run from heaven. His cohorts keep running. They are oblivious to the fact that they will be caught in short order…as oblivious as those two guys who escaped from prison in Florida and were sitting in a hotel two hours away from where they’d escaped from...but i digress.

Chinese is not my first language, but I’m pretty sure that the last two characters in the inscription at the top right refer to a “long face”. That inscription makes the message of the painting clear.

This painting is all about justice. Keep yourself out of trouble or you will get caught.  Inevitably you’ll end up sitting in jail with a long face.

Behave, art fans!

See a bad painting that needs to be criticized? Send me a picture of it! If you know the painter’s name, please let me know.  I am always on the hunt for fresh bad art.

Here are more of my influential critiques.


25 Comments on “Why The Long Face? An Art Critique”

  1. I think the whole meaning here is you spend too much time n Chinese restaurants.

  2. Lily says:

    I love that this is what you ‘got from that.’

  3. pieterk515 says:

    Impressive. Comedian who interprets art. I guess, I have to take you more seriously from now on.

  4. knace says:

    At my favorite Chinese buffet there is a big painting of a flock of vultures sitting around in some trees. I think the artist’s message there is pretty clear. =)

  5. Debbie says:

    While I appreciate your unique interpretation, sir, I think it might be full of chop suey. The horse is a BIG DEAL in Chinese Feng Shui ( In full gallop, it represents “the speedy arrival of your good fortune.” It symbolizes movement and power. By the way, I really like this painting and seeing it on glass just adds to its beauty!

  6. lbwoodgate says:

    Then there is this. The horses on the right are mares and the ones on the left are stanlions. Clearly horse play and hormones are active here.

  7. Katie says:

    Nothing enrages me more than horses openly flouting the laws of horse society.

  8. Blogdramedy says:

    This will have me peering closely at my next serving of spicy beef.

  9. Betty says:

    Running from the chef.

  10. Laura says:

    I don’t know — the three horses in front look like they’re about to take flight. The four in back seem focused on building up enough speed to take off. The one in the middle seems to be having second thoughts.

  11. Wow! Chinese restaurants are scary. Thank goodness I usually get take-out.

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