“A painter of our era, but with oriental influence, and of Chinese inspiration: I remain both Chinese and contemporary.”
Lalan’s work stands between two cultures, the heritage of one of the world’s most ancient civilisations and the Parisian art scene of the second half of the twentieth century. In marrying the two sometimes antithetical influences in her work, she joins the ranks of other well-known Chinese artists working in Paris during this period, notably Zao Wou-Ki, her first husband, PanYuliang, Sanyu and Tang Haiwen, all of whom escaped the pressure either to paint like their Western contemporaries or to seek refuge in the familiar motifs of traditional Chinese brush-and-ink paintings. Instead, each has a distinct personal style which takes cultural interchange as a starting point rather than a stumbling block. Lalan is no exception. Chinese by birth, Xié Jing-lan lived in France for almost fifty years and was nationalised French, and yet there was never any question of her renouncing her past. In its intricate dialogue between tradition and invention, between East and West, her art constantly recalls and exults in this cultural duality.
From the early elusive world of calligraphic signs and sombre tones, passing through spartan lunar expenses to the final cascades of abstract landscapes, Lalan’s oils, screens, watercolours and scrolls reveal a sensitivity which draws on exceptional creative resources. For in addition to being bi-cultural, she was talented not only as a painter, but also as a composer, a dancer, a choreographer, a director, a writer and a poet. Shortly before her untimely death in 1995 , she was working on a piece entitled Danse du Qigong which characterises her prodigious diversity of talent: on video film, Lalan, over seventy years of age, performs a dance of both western and traditional Chinese influence, a succession of controlled, fluid, elegant movements, choreographed to electronic music of her own composition, which at times is resonantly intense, at times refined to a subtle indication of the presence of sound. The spectacle is performed within the boundaries of four vast hanging scrolls, painted by the artist in an expressive gestural manner, creating rushing streams and speckled areas of blue and white colour, reminiscent of water perhaps, but abstracted to become an essence of fluidity, of movement, which echoes the external music and gestures of the artist as well as a more elusive internal world.