Friday, 9 July 2010

Green Ladies

After sitting patiently in the corner of my studio for some weeks, my portrait of 1940's Chinese/American burlesque performer Noel Toy is properlly underway.

I discovered Toy while researching vintage burlesque, and found a lovely black and white film of this delightful exotic dancer. After finding out more about her and who she was, I was inspired to celebrate her in her own painting.

This image of Noel is taken from a still of the orignial film and I have included the name of the club she performed in as a tribute to her success and unique appeal; it is said her burlesque acts tripled business at the Forbidden City night club within three months!

My initial plan for this painting was to do the entire thing in black and white, but as I applied the layers of paint I noticed a distinct green glow to Noel's face. Subconsciously I had plied a green/blue tint to her skin making her now reminisent of the famous Green Lady. I decided I quite liked her accidental otherworldly look so I'm sticking to it. I hope Noel would appreciate the links with the other famous chinese green lady.

A little about the Green Lady:

Originally named, 'Chinese Girl' this painting was created between 1946 -50 by Russian born artist Vladimir Tretchikoff.
With the mantra, 'Express your passion, do what you love, no matter what', Tretchikoff was a free spirit who painted uncomplicated images using unmixed paint straight from the tube. His life reads like a thriller and you can read his beautifully presented biography at his website HERE.

'Chinese Girl' became a huge commercial success; in the austere post war years the painting was a slice of an exotic world many could only dream about. It was also one of the first affordable art prints, meaning even those from the working class had access to art works to disply in their own homes. This trend reached it's kitsch peak during the 1960's and 70's when the green lady graced many a living room wall giving her an instant recogisable iconic status.

It's rumored that 'Chinese Girl' has been printed more times than Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa giving more ammunition to the overall popularity and mystique of this well known image.

Tretchikoff went on to paint various other green tinted women but it is this particular green lady who has stayed a firm favourite triggering memories of childhood and trips to grandparents' houses when her popularity was at it's highest and has come to represent kitsch at it's best.

What people say about the the Green Lady:

'I wish it had never happened'
Art Critic Brian Sewell

'It means something about my background and where I'm from and my nan'
Designer Wayne Hemmingway

'To me it is very powerful and spiritual
Paranormalist Uri Geller

1 comment:

Nirmal Singh said...

Gemma, i believe the poster to the upper left of the telley, or lower left of the green lady is a sarah moon work. could i be mistaken or no? i have/had a copy of it at one time. thanks...nirmal