About Zhai Mo’s latest works
By Seychelles’ Ambassador : H.E. Mr. Philippe Le Gall
We are all sons and daughters of a given land, and a few among us are also the adopted children of the sea.
They are the descendants of the first men and women who understood that seabirds are fetching their food through the vast ocean and return to the land only to nest.
Of the first men and women who guessed that the vast ocean was the supreme test to their courage and that there was a life, probably a better one, beyond the horizon.
Not the descendants in direct paternal line, of course!
The call of the sea may skip generations and be heard by people who belong to sedentary groups and who are co-opted in a rather mysterious way. From then, they still belong to the land where they grew up but they also belong to the sea. You cannot stop them as they will never accept to choose between the land and the sea.
Zhai Mo is a good example of such "dual identity".
Even when social obligations, to promote his book or his next adventures, bring him out of his shell and show his earthy side, you can feel the Man is impatient to stand on the deck of his boat.
As a child born close to the ocean, I wanted to have an albatross as a friend!
I knew the bird is a long distance traveller avoiding the company of human beings: there is no “urban” albatross.
I think it is very inspiring for all navigators.
When you watch an albatross taking off you realize this is the part of its journey that demands the maximum of energy, then the wind and the waves may be its allies.
My native Brittany is one of the most sea-oriented provinces of Western Europe. I attended once the departure of “ La Route du Rhum “ a transatlantic single-handed yacht race organized every four years between Saint-Malo harbor and Guadeloupe in the Caribbean.
When you think of the incredible sum of efforts needed to be ready on the starting line of the race – and this is also the case prior to any major scientific sea trip – you imagine the big wild bird able to cover almost one thousand km a day once it has defeated gravity.
Zhai Mo has circumnavigated the globe like an albatross and he is familiar with the immensity of the sea. If mankind - as I often say - is a social specie, I believe sailors may be classified as a migratory sub-group.
Most sailors I have met are not talkative but at the same time they feel the urge to share with others part of their experiences at sea. Some write novels, diaries or poetry; others take pictures or make sketches. Many chat online when they have the equipment to stay in touch with the outside world: they want to communicate in real time their impressions and talk of the natural challenges and loneliness they have to face. They hope they can be understood and supported, but not like modern heroes, rather like individuals questioning their physical and mental limits. We all have this capacity. Few are willing to explore it.
Zhai Mo is as much a painter as a sailor.
A Chinese painter will not unfold his easel in front of a mountain and paint from nature. He will pay a visit to the mountain, fix its key elements in his memory, this includes the way the mountain seems to connect earth to heaven and elevates mind, adding wisdom and spiritual awareness to the artist's quest. Then he will go back home or his workshop and the next day, sometimes months or years later, paint what he has felt, more than what he has seen, and how, in his inner self, this has been transformed into energy and harmonious cohesion.
Zhai Mo does not paint mountains.
He paints the sea, with eventually islands or lighthouses in the background.
He does not paint mountains but under his brush the sea seems to have the same sacred meaning as the 5 mountains and pilgrimage sites so important in Chinese culture.
No need for him to give to his paintings the name of each of the oceans he sailed through. However it is neither generic nor anonymous: actually each wave tells a different story: oceans are plural never singular. It may be frightening for us. It is so much out of proportion with what we know that we see seismic waves everywhere!
But it remains common and casual for him.
Zhai Mo has weathered so many storms and he has spent so many days and weeks in the intimacy of tormented waters, that even on land, even facing his canvass, he continues feeling the often hectic pulse of the sea.
In front of some of his paintings, I would like to wear a life jacket before giving a closer look!
I am less cautious when the sea becomes rock and gets the texture of marble, dark blue with fading touches and pale rays replacing the shades of grey present elsewhere.
In his paintings, there is something of the light you experience in winter while walking in a hutong.
Maybe the sea is like a hutong for him, and here and there, like hutong secret mansions, still reminiscent of the lustre of bygone days, colorful islands emerge on the line of horizon and seem to occupy all the landscape.
I like his enterprises as a sailor and his work as an artist. I am one of his admirers.
Literally xintianweng means “ believe-heaven-old man “. This is also what artists do, with all their heart.