Xie Jinglan, nicknamed Lalan (formerly "Lanlan"), was born in Guizhou, China in 1921 and brought up by a scholarly family. Her grandfather was a famous scholar and her father was a traditional Chinese literati. At a young age, Lalan had a musical gift and had the opportunity to cultivate her talent thanks to her family’s support of the arts and academia. When Lalan was seven, she and her family moved to Shanghai and soon thereafter, moved to Hangzhou where she entered the Music Department of the Hangzhou School of Art in 1937. During her time in Hangzhou, Lalan met Zao Wou-Ki. In 1941, they married in Hong Kong and in 1948, the couple travelled to Paris to start a new phase of life together.


Finding themselves in the centre of the art world in the late 1940's, the couple quickly became enamoured with France’s artistic metropolis and world-famous museums. Lalan and Zao settled into a studio in Paris Montparnasse where they became neighbors with Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti and befriended artists Sanyu, Georges Mathieu and Pierre Soulages, as well as the poet Henri Michaux who had helped both Lalan’s and Zao Wou-Ki’s artistic development.


Lalan continually pursued her passion in music, while Zao Wou-Ki’s career in the visual arts progressed. During this period, Lalan studied music composition at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris, and later, she studied modern dance at the American Cultural Centre after watching a documentary on Martha Graham. As mentioned, the poet Henri Michaux was a supportive figure in Lalan’s artistic growth and he introduced her to the distinguished and avant-garde American-French electronic composer Edgard Varèse who offered Lalan the opportunity to learn about electronic music. As a result, this experience led to Lalan’s realization of her genuine passion to express her inner world of artistry.


In 1957, Lanlan divorced Zao Wou-Ki and moved to St. Ouen in the north suburb of Paris. One year later, she married Marcel Van Thienen, a French musician, and changed her name from “Lanlan” to Lalan. From then on, she started a new life as an artist, devoting herself to painting, music, dance and poetry.


Lalan never ceased to paint with vibrance and spirit until an accident took her life in 1995. Most significant to her work was the conveyance of her intuitive artistic vision and the freedom of self-expression.


Lalan’s works are collected by the Culture Ministry of France, the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Shanghai Art Museum, the Macau Museum of Art, etc.




Biographical Timeline



Xie Jinglan, nickname Lanlan, was born in the city of Guiyang, Guizhou Province on September 14. Her mother grew up in an illustrious family in Guiyang. The family, surnamed Yue, was wealthy and liberal-minded. Lanlan's maternal grandfather was a renowned scholar in the locality, and her father, once a pupil of the Yue's, excelled in temperament. Such family cultivation proved to be an important factor contributing to her entry into the music world years later.



The family moved to Shanghai.



The family moved to Hangzhou. Intolerant of the hubbub of city life, they chose to live by the picturesque West Lake. Lanlan's father purchased a piece of land at the foot of the Ge Hill, had a house and garden built, and the family settled down. Lanlan attended an American missionary school nearby, the Hong Dao School, where her gift for dancing and music was fully appreciated.



Lanlan's father bought her a piano. After school, she would practice hard, showing a flair for music.



Through her fourth cousin sister, a student at the Hangzhou Art College, Xie met Zao Wuo-ki, also a student at the same college, who painted an oil portrait of her, Lanlan.



As the Japanese invaders pushed southward, the family returned to Guiyang, in August. Lanlan's mother passed away.



The Hangzhou Art College moved from Jiangxi Province to Yuanling, Hunan Province and merged with the Beiping Art College. Zao Wuo-ki tripped to Guiyang to visit Lanlan who was bereaved of her mother. With her father's permission, Lanlan moved to Yuanling and studied in the music department of the Hangzhou Art College.



Zao Wuo-ki's grandfather passed away. As the traditional customs forbade weddings, Xie and Zao registered for marriage in Hong Kong. In the same year Zao painted The Wedding in oils.



After graduation Zao was engaged by the Hangzhou Art College as a teacher. The couple lived in Chongqing. Their house commanded a breathtaking view of the Jialing River. Their only son was born there, hence his name Jialing.



Japan surrendered unconditionally. The Hangzhou Art College moved back to Hangzhou and resumed school by the West Lake. Xie Jing-lan's family also returned to theirhouse by the lake, where art people, Lin Feng-mian among them, would happily gathered, chatting, savoring the beautiful view of the lake. A time of peace was back. It was really hard-earned. However, Zao Wou-ki yearned for the western culture. He began his application for an entry visa to France. Meanwhile Lanlan entered the Shanghai Music College for further study.



On February 26, the couple boarded the ocean liner "André Lebon", leaving Shanghai for France. They arrived in Marseilles on April 1 and drove to Paris on the same day. Then a period of acculturation ensued, in which they learnt French, visited galleries and museums.



In the 50's, the curator of the Gallery of France, Madame Myriam Prevot had a villa in Lande in south west France. It was then the artists' favorite haunt where Lanlan met Marcel van Thienen, a musician, for the first time.



Henri Michaux recommended Lanlan to Edgar Varèse, a renowned American-French composer, under whom Lanlan studied avant-garde "electronic music" in an inn near Montparnasse.



LanIan was permitted to return to Mainland China. Six months' stay awakened her to the extensiveness and profoundness of the Chinese culture. Lanlan took her only son to join Zao Wou-ki in Hong Kong, planning to return to Paris together. Days later, they separated for some reasons.



Xie Jing-lan divorced Zao Wou-ki. She moved to St. Ouen in the north suburb of Paris and took up abstract painting.



Xie Jing-lan married Marcel van Thienen. While working on electronic music, she began her venture into the world of painting. She changed her name from Lanlan to Lalan.



Lalan gave her first solo exhibition of oil paintings at the Creuze Gallery in Paris. In those strong colored abstract paintings, unmistakable was her style which featured calligraphic symbols.


Zhang Da-qian, a painter sojourning in Brazil, exhibited his new works in Paris. Lalan specially paid a visit. On a photo presented to her as a gift, Zhang Da-qian inscribed with a writing bush "To Ms. Jing-lan. This photo was taken when you graced my humble show."



Lalan was formally admitted into the Music, Lyrics, Composition & Publishing Society, becoming an acknowledged composer.



She had a solo exhibition at the Paperback Gallery in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland.



Her painting career came to a bottle neck, with watercolors as the mainstay. She strenuously studied the ancient Chinese landscapes, especially the works by Ma Yuan and Xia Gui, and assiduously read the Zhuangzi, questing for the Taoist ideology.



She held a solo exhibition at Galerie 7 in Paris, displaying oil and water colors. Many paintings featured simple lines, bold and dark, dancing in a wide blank space with emphasis on the brush work of the Chinese calligraphy. Now her style which was influenced by Chinese traditional landscapes grew steadily distinct. Lonesco, an absurdist, wrote the preface to the catalog.



She had a solo exhibition at the Helene de Beauvoir Gallery in Strasbourg in north east France.



She moved back to Le Marais in downtown Paris. Concrete images for the first time appeared in her tableau.



Subdued colors were used in her oil landscapes, mainly pinkish grey, light purple or light blue. The peeks, the sun, the moon all abounded with rhythmic charms of dancing.



She painted the three-folded huge opus Sudden Blue, which was purchased by the Culture Ministry of France as a permanent museum article. This triggered a series of landscapes. She gave exhibitions in Silkerborg of Denmark and at the Debriere Gallery in Paris. She gave dancing performances against a backdrop of her landscapes, accompanied by the music she herself composed. This art form which blended painting, music and dancing together was known as “integrated art”.



She gave a solo exhibition of integrated art at the Laon Culture Center in North France and gave performances at Espace Cardin in Paris.



She gave a solo exhibition at the Iris Clert Gallery in Paris. The Culture Ministry of France made a special award to her to encourage the study and the development of "integrated art" which merged music, dancing and painting into one.



She staged dancing performances at Malakoff in a suburb of Paris and the St.Quentin-en Yvelines-Elancourt Culture Center. The co-operation with the latter continued till 1983. She bought a disused factory in Les Lilas in the east suburb of Paris and turned it into studios.



Lalan and Marcel gave a duo exhibition at the Maison de la culture des Hauts de Belleville in Paris.



The couple had duo exhibitions at the culture centers in Montbeliard and Auxerre. In June Lalan gave an interview to Dr. Xu Jie-yu, a professor and art critic from the State University of San Francisco, America, who wrote a series of articles on Lalan's experiences of creation and the characteristics of integrated art. From mid-December to February 1982, Galerie Bellint arranged a solo exhibition for her. Dr. Andre Berne Joffroy, curator of the Municipal Modern Arts Gallery, wrote the preface to the catalog. The exhibition was highly acclaimed.



Lalan had a solo exhibition at Bellint Gallery in Paris. "A Study of the Contemporary Painting of China----Lalan" by Madame Danielle Berthelot was published.



She held a solo exhibition at the Culture Center of Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines-Elancourt in west of Paris.



This period saw a decrease in Lalan's painting production as she made frequent tours in Asia. She painted The Entwined Twigs, showing a return to abstractionism.



In May,the Euro-Asian Cultural Exchange Association and the Espace Cardin in Paris jointly hosted a grand solo exhibition for her. M. Jacques Chirac, mayor of Paris at that time, wrote the preface to the colored deluxe catalog. The exhibition showed slides of her works and played the music she had composed. To the Memory of Henri Michaux (1984) and A Salute to Edgar Varese (1985) gave full expression to her profound memory of these deceased friends. She bought a villa at Bormes-les-Mimosas by the azure beach and set up a new studio.



Lalan usually lived in Bormes-les Mimosas. From June 12 to14 a "Poetry Festival" sponsored for the first time by the Culture Ministry of France was held at Notre-Dame de Paris, which selected Paul Claudel as the theme. In the three days period the Musee Guimet of Paris exhibited poems of Asian countries. Lalan was the only Chinese representative who put forth new paintings and French poems.



Lalan participated in the “Joint Exhibition of Three Female Artists” at Le Lavandou.



April, Lalan died in a car crash.