Hu Zhipeng’s Painting World: A Variant Realm
Source:Artintern.net Author:Qu Bo Date: 2013-08-14 Size:
In the Chinese language there is an idiom that goes: “Particles of sand accumulated will form a towering pile”, which means fine sands accumulated will become a pagoda. It’s from the Lotus Sutra – Convenience Goods: “In the wilderness, accumulating earth into a Buddhist temple, it’s a children’s play the same way as accumulating sands into a Buddhist pagoda.” Borrowing from this idiom, Hu Zhipeng made a slight change by naming his recent works as “Accumulating Sands into Mountains” series. “Borrow” and “Change” are rightly one of the clues that interpret this batch of Hu Zhipeng’s works.

  In the Chinese language there is an idiom that goes: “Particles of sand accumulated will form a towering pile”, which means fine sands accumulated will become a pagoda. It’s from the Lotus Sutra – Convenience Goods: “In the wilderness, accumulating earth into a Buddhist temple, it’s a children’s play the same way as accumulating sands into a Buddhist pagoda.” Borrowing from this idiom, Hu Zhipeng made a slight change by naming his recent works as “Accumulating Sands into Mountains” series. “Borrow” and “Change” are rightly one of the clues that interpret this batch of Hu Zhipeng’s works.

  Hu Zhipeng has been strongly interested in the images of classical paintings, on which he based his paintings while absorbing images today about nature, society, history, and daily life that constitute a huge database of images through which he shuttles freely to borrow and use the images at random. In his “borrowing”, however, there is something cunning or something wise, that is to break the image into pieces, rub it and restructure it so that a varied image comes into being, which is different from the previous one and eventually makes up a variant realm varied from the normal state just due to the strangeness of the image.

  Hu Zhipeng’s works are basically structured on Chinese traditional landscape painting, particularly that of the Five Dynasties (907~960) and the Northern Song Dynasty (960~1127). The Chinese traditional landscape painting, as soon as it was established, climbed up to an admirable height swiftly. The Five Dynasties and the Northern Song Dynasty were the early periods in which the Chinese traditional landscape painting developed as well as periods in which it quickly became mature as famous painters emerged with excellent works one after another, which was so called a “golden era” in the history of landscape painting by art historians.[1] The reason why it was called a “golden era” is directly attributable to the brilliant achievements made in the periods, but such a saying can be taken as a metaphor: artists at that time, thanks to their cosmic consciousness, could “travel anywhere at the speed of light without any obstacles”. The artists, in their intercourse with the heaven and earth, were like human beings of the First Age created and pampered by deities in the Greek mythology; their heart tour and broad vision brought about grand composition in the landscape painting and cast an inherent solemn sense to the works. Therefore, saying Hu Zhipeng’s works are based on the landscape painting of the Five Dynasties and the Northern Song Dynasty refers to the pattern of composition so borrowed and that they are interlinked in inherent spiritual temperament as well.

  As far as composition of the “Accumulating Sands into Mountains” is concerned, Hu Zhiping didn’t take the perspective of western landscape painting but, from a visual angle of the landscape painting of the Five Dynasties and the Northern Song Dynasty, captured freely and overlapped the layers to form into a grand composition consisting of rolling mountains and meandering rivers, in which due to the use of large numbers of globes or similar globes the shapes in the frame appear fully round as if filled with full vigor and vitality. The grand composition plus the inflated shapes cast the frame a solemn sense of ceremoniousness. Meanwhile, Hu Zhipeng didn’t forget to borrow the delicate and dense wrinkle method from the landscape painting of the Five Dynasties and the Northern Song Dynasty. With a careful and precise attitude like the painters of that time, he mixed all kinds of bright colors to “wrinkle” the texture of the mountains little by little in a way “to paint a river in ten days while a rock in five days”. From this angle, Hu Zhipeng successfully borrowed from the landscape painting of the Five Dynasties and the Northern Song Dynasty and connected a channel to the classical art.

  Upon a careful study of Hu Zhipeng’s works, however, we can find more “changes” from his “borrowing”. In terms of the “wrinkle method” to the landscape paintings of China’s ancient times, its significance is in highlighting the differences between the textures of mountain rocks in different regions as they are divided into north and south, so are paintings. But to Hu Zhipeng, the “wrinkle method” in his painting is actually a means to perceive and express the world through touching; he used a repeated rubbing method to describe the mountain rocks in order to highlight their stately and rich details. At the same time, he used gentle brushwork to depict clouds, mists and water. Therefore this batch of his works can be concluded as both visual and sensational. Hu Zhipeng used a special vocabulary to convey his unique understanding of the landscaped world.

  Moreover, in the landscape painting there are not figures in the scenery or houses and towers that imply the existence of figures as commonly found in the landscape paintings of the Five Dynasties and the Northern Song Dynasty, but only deserted wild mountains. Figures dissociated imply that it’s a primordial world or the age of earth and the extinct of heaven, but in the wild mountains it seems not true that living things don’t exist because the viewer can catch sight of images like eyes or mouths drifting vaguely amidst rivers, mists and clouds. As to what the living things are, Hu Zhipeng didn’t give an affirmative or negative implication. Perhaps they are illusory mountain spirits or water sprites partly hidden and partly visible like in fairy tales. Therefore we can state that in his works Hu Zhipeng “borrowed” the scenery from the landscape paintings of the Five Dynasties and the Northern Song Dynasty on one hand, and on the other hand created scenery because of “variations”, whereby common scenery becomes varied scenery due to “variations”.

  Before making the “Accumulating Sands into Mountains” series, Hu Zhipeng produced “Gourmand Grand Banquet” series. In the so-called “Grand Banquet” there are delicate tableware, fruits and vegetables, foods, still-life objects, and insects like in the small school paintings of the 17th century Netherlands, but when all the stuff are combined, a grand banquet begins to fester because of the over-ripe fruits, the foods also deteriorate as time elapses, and a sweetish fishy smell is pervasive in the air. Figures in the paintings are mostly strangely dressed, freakish or disabled who appear in bust with numb expressions, and bleb-like decayed marks in the skin. All those make people think of the “flowers of evil” under the pen of Charles Baudelaire of the 19th century. Therefore Hu Zhipeng “borrowed” quite a lot of image resources that “varied” into his own world as a result of fusion with his ideas about the history and the reality. The world, due to the differences from the defamiliarized face of the day-to-day world, can be equally called a varied realm.

  As a matter of fact, in the “Accumulating Sands into Mountains” and the “Gourmand Grand Banquet” series and the creation of his huge single frame paintings in his early years, the eventual effects with surrealistic hue combined by individual shapes in an absurd manner are indicative of Hu Zhipeng’s points of focus. On one hand, he dabbles at various existing genres of art extensively, transplanting and even copying their language while trying to accumulate the prevailing image resources purposely in order to expand his painting vocabulary; on the other hand, either in his early years or at present, what he really cares for is to create a world far away from the daily life. Although it can be said that this world is a projection of the real world, it is an exaggerated, distorted, and deformed world in such a way that sometimes it’s hardly possible to find a model in the real world. It can be concluded that creation of a varied realm is the common characteristics throughout Hu Zhipeng’s works.

  Immanuel Kant once said: “a long era is lofty. If it belongs to the bygone times, then it is noble; if it unveils a future at which it’s hard to take a glimpse, then it has something awesome”.[2] To that extent, the “Accumulating Sands into Mountains” series have unveiled a point-in-time far away from the present and have a sense of loftiness. Likewise, the “Gourmand Grand Banquet” series and Hu Zhipeng’s other single frame paintings in his early years have a sense of loftiness because a varied realm far from the real world is created. Although not noble or magnificent, they often give the viewer a sense of awe.

  Notes:

  [1] Li Lincan: Manuscript of China’s Fine Arts [M]. Kunming: Yunnan People’s Publishing House, 2002: 86-109.

  [2] Immanuel Kant. On Sense of Beauty and Sense of Loftiness [M]. Trans. He Zhaowu, Beijing: the Commercial Press, 2001: 5.

  (Qu Bo: Doctor of Art History, Director of the Institute of Sichuan Art, Xihua University)

[Editor] 常霞

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