Chinese X Jewish cultures
So honoured that my work was curated to the digital gallery of the 2022 Conney Conference on Jewish Arts presented by The Mosse Weinstein Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Wisconsin Madison. This year’s conference addresses themes of interdisciplinarity, diversity and intersectionality in the changing landscape of the Jewish Arts.
Decidedly Jewish, Carol Man began her journey from a totally alien background. Born in colonial Hong Kong into a traditional Chinese family dating back to the Song Dynasty (creators of the world’s first bank notes,) she began a Jewish journey through the 90’s, that while strange and unfamiliar to family and local community, allowed her a cross pollination of both experience and history. This sensitized “vantage point” has blended her primal DNA, with her Master of Visual Arts (2015), to create a gestalt of installations, encompassing objects, paintings, calligraphy, and through 25 years, two sons in Yeshiva.
A beautiful verse from “Song of Songs”, written by King Solomon,
Oh, give me of the kisses of your mouth, For your love is more delightful than wine, 1:2), rendered in the archaic seal-script style on an intense palette of burnt sienna and malachite green, signals the navigating of feminine and masculine energy. The כי here is represented by a blue crescent which has witnessed thousands of years of human love. Seal-script is an ancient style of writing Chinese characters that was common throughout the latter half of the 1st millennium BCE.
These characters are created by rendering the alphabets of Hebrew names in Songti, and using the color layers to indicate the spelling order of the word. For instance, the painting with purple background consists of two Hebrew letters, ב and ן, as ב covers part of ן, it spells בן. Hebrew names here are Ben, Binyamin, Itzak, Meir, Levi, Dan, Reuven and Issachar. Songti, a writing style derived from the China Song Dynasty, using woodblock techniques created to enable movable type. It has relatively thinner horizontal lines compared to vertical strokes. There are “triangles” at the end of each stroke. This is to compensate for any “tear and wear” that may occur during printing of that era.
A Jewish phrase translates to “May You be Inscribed and Sealed for a Good Year”. Jewish people greet each others on Yom Kippur, or The Day of Atonement, it is the holiest day of the Jewish year.
Love work, loath mastery over others, and avoid intimacy with the government
ֱאהוֹב ֶאת ַה ְמּ ָלא ָכה וּ ְשׂנָא ֶאת ָה ַר ָבּנוּת, ְואַל ִתּ ְת ַו ַדּע ָל ָרשׁוּת
I’m Man Wing Yan
I’m Carol Man
I’m Avital Man
My art is intimately touched by all three.
A journey about bi/tridirectional change,
There is interplay between giver, receiver and spirit.
Having lived my entire life in Hong Kong,
An origin and axis of cultural churn,
My daily familial Chinese origins have merged,
For the past decades, into a living Jewish soul.
The result is an emotional signature that is poles apart from expectation.
One that translates from brush to canvas, and from pen to paper.
Remember as a child, pencil in hand, drawing your first letter,
Synchronizing your hand and eye, forming the lines, strokes, connections.
That feeling, so inscribed into self essence.
Turning letters into words, and words into worlds.
Such was the sensation, I, this time grown, and with adult consciousness
Would interpret Leshon Hakodesh, the hallowed language of Hebrew passages.
Rendering Hebrew into ancient Chinese strokes,
Transforming distinct square form characters in Seal and Kaishu calligraphy script, and Songti typography,
With a soft and resilient brush,
The aleph bet is nested within glyphs and ideographs,
Establishing intimate dwellings for Jewish texts.
From Shir Hashirim (King Solomon’s Song of Songs)
To Psalms, Pirkei Avot, or names of Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
Whether in Shanghai or Vienna, New York or Jerusalem, both audience and collectors delightfully inform me with ever more meaningful spiritual textures to explore and pursue.