Chinese Nobel author trades pen for brush

Wed Jul 3, 2013 12:47am EDT
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By Michael Gold

TAIPEI (Reuters) - A dark figure stands alone in the centre of a bleak, shadowy landscape in one painting, while an ethereal tree-like form claims attention in another.

The haunting black-and-white paintings are the work of Gao Xingjian, the first Chinese-born Nobel literature laureate, who traded pen for brush to explore a realm of mood and meditation in a rare exhibit in Taiwan's capital of Taipei.

The 20 works on display in "The Edge of Reality" exhibition, the 73-year-old Gao's first in Asia for three years, present stark landscapes of form, shade and shape that stand in sharp contrast to his detail-rich novels such as "Soul Mountain", for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2000.

"Painting and literature are two completely different languages," Gao, who lives in France, said at the show's recent opening. "Where literature reaches its limits of expressive power, that's where painting begins."

Gao's literary oeuvre, which also includes "One Man's Bible" and numerous stage plays, has won him global acclaim. In his native China, however, his works were banned in 1989 after a play, "Escape", explicitly addressed the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

He said his two artistic endeavors have been part of his life since he was a child, although as an adult he keeps a distance between them.

"For my tenth birthday my uncle gave me a notebook that was just white pages, no grid and no lines," Gao said. "At that time I used it for both writing and drawing.

"I strictly separate the two disciplines. When I'm painting, not only do I not write, I won't even read."   Continued...

Chinese writer Gao Xingjian, winner of the 2000 Nobel Prize for Literature, poses for photographers after his news conference at the International Literature Festival "Kosmopolis 08" in Barcelona, October 22, 2008. REUTERS/Gustau Nacarino