Celebrating the Year of the Tiger
I was fortunate to learn traditional Chinese painting from some of the great masters. The one who influenced me most was Master Huang Zhou, one of the most famous painters in modern China. I was inspired by his paintings of animals which are vivid, lifelike and portrayed with great spirit. Many of China's top artists are associated with animals: Huang Zhou with donkeys, Xu Beihong with horses, Li Keran with water buffalos and Qi Baishi with shrimp. I always enjoyed painting horses and tigers.
Since ancient times the tiger has been respected for its unique beauty and power. Warriors named their strongest soldiers “tiger troops” and the most promising young people were nick-named "tigers". In Chinese tradition the tiger has been associated with emperors and royalty but also loved by ordinary people. This can be seen in tiger-head shoes, hats, paper-cuts and other items that symbolize good luck and a desire for power, vigor, health, grace and everlasting friendship. In the country-side paper-cut tigers are hung on the front door and in the home to scare-off evil spirits and to bring success to the family or business.
I started painting tigers when I was 12 years old. I painted two tigers for a neighbor’s dinner table and received a lot of favorable comments and encouragement. I have loved painting tigers ever since. Usually artists like to paint a single tiger in a mountain scene. I prefer to see the nurturing character of a tiger with its children. Thus, I painted a mother and son, and a family of three or even five tigers. Five tigers symbolize happiness and peace. The tiger is an animal with elements of our own human nature combined with its own wild spirit. In my paintings I like to make my tigers appear friendly and ready to come down to talk, play and live with us.
The tiger is an endangered species, which also symbolizes the state of our world. I wish to use my paintings to increase awareness of our natural environment and the need to protect this regal animal while creating a more harmonious environment in which we all live. I hope my paintings will invite people to walk into them with calmness, inspiration, passion and a curiosity to explore. This is what happened when Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao was looking at my tiger painting and he touched the hair with appreciation and admiration as if it was a living, caring creature.
This series of paintings celebrates the Year of the Tiger with the wish to bring beauty, health, good luck and success to all who view them.
Xinle Ma (b. 1963)
Elizabeth Wang Gallery
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