• WEDNESDAY GIFTS Painting Exhibition
  • Artist: Pan Tao
  • Critic: Monica Dematté
  • Opening: 16:00 – 19:00 / 29.05.2010
  • Duration: 10:00 – 18:00 / 30.05.2010 – 02.07.2010 Dialy
  • Address: ANART. 2F, Building 13, M50, Shanghai.


Exploring the roots of life 
- Pan Tao’s cosmic motherhood
Monica Dematté

Pan Tao has an academic background, she has studied painting at the Lu Xun Academy of Fine Arts. And she is a mother. When a woman painter becomes a mother, it is very likely that she expresses her feelings, her new status in her works. The danger is to become overtly sentimental, to concentrate on one’s own baby to the extent of neglecting any other thing, at least for a period.
This is not the case, though. Pan Tao has the calm, smiling easiness of many women from the north of China, she is deeply female without being too feminine, she is a ‘natural woman’ who looks at love, bodies, birth like metaphors of the whole universe, of Life.  

I have recently discovered a series of small works dating back from 2002, before her pregnancy. In them, nude males are pissing, either in solitude or together, and their piss creates a cascade, a river, even a whole sea. They are simple watercolours on paper, quick images sketched with the brush, with watery, ‘dirty’ colours. Pan Tao likes to divide the surface of the painting in few large and very definite areas, juxtaposed in an asymmetric geometry. Earthy colours predominate, contours are thick and approximate although very visible. Human figures, be them very tiny in the landscape, or predominant, are made of the same material as the surroundings, they might be greysh, bluish… their consistence has to do with the environment they are in, rather than with the original tone of the flesh.
In many cases the resulting colour comes out of several overlapping nuances, and this adds a rich pictorial effect to the simplicity of the works, whose components are so essential that they often even look unfinished.

The series on pregnancy and on the new born baby starts in 2004. I feel there is curiosity and wonder, in Pan Tao’s eyes who follow the changes taking place in her own body. I feel she is deeply moved by what is happening in her womb, she no longer fully recognises herself although she is comfortable with her new, ‘natural’ situation. 
Once the baby is born, it is another, even greater wonder; his being fully spontaneous, unaware, in any situation and especially in his sleep, reveals a freshness, an authenticity that adults have long lost. Pan Tao manages to convey all these thoughts, impressions,  fantasies, straight into her works. Her small watercolours, that look like pages of an intimate diary, are vibrating with the strength of her feelings for life. Here we can sense the difference between a painting made from a photograph, that has been thought about for long, and one made on the spot, sometimes with a model and others just following the suggestions of interior visual memories.  

I feel Pan Tao is now somehow struggling to switch from a rather ‘emotional’ approach to painting into something more detached. It seems to be that in the contemporary world everybody is afraid and ashamed of showing emotions, everybody tries to conform to the common trend, that requires to distillate every expression through a conceptual filter. 
In my opinion, Pan Tao’s deep and spontaneous sensitivity is a great gift she has received, and it would be a real pity to bury it into a cold frame. 
I see in her paintings a ‘panic’ atmosphere that involves everything. Human beings, mainly nude, are just so much part of the universe, that a flow of vital energy passes through them. They carry and communicate life with their bodies and in doing so they find their role in the cosmos. 

I feel a warmth about Pan Tao, as a person, that makes me think she is a true, caring woman, and when, like in many cases, she manages to convey that very warmth to the viewers through her works, she achieves a great task, difficult to reach for many artists who are more concerned with external, superficial issues rather than with their inner being.
It might be quite obvious to say that, but I believe this ability comes from the best part of female nature. Why should we give it up for some ordinary ‘male’ rationality?

Vigolo Vattaro, 15 March, 2010
Thanks to Christopher Taylor