Ma Shulin:Imagery Chinese Painting
Source:Artintern Author:Ma Shulin Date: 2014-03-27 Size:
The development of contemporary Chinese painting is closely related to the history of Chinese society and the philosophical ideas and aesthetic viewpoint of oriental culture. We firmly believe that with the help of these works of art, French people will better understand Chinese painting and the unique beauty it possesses...

Chinese painting enjoys a history of more than two thousand years. It is a unique confluence of Chinese philosophical thinking, the molding concept, the painting idea, the appraisal standard, and the appreciation method. Chinese painting possesses its particular linguistic form in terms of poetry, calligraphy, painting, and seal cutting to convey the artistic sensibility of artists towards Mother Nature, life, and the times through writing brushes, ink sticks, paper and inkstones.

Imagery modeling is an essential rule for Chinese painting, which can be dated back to rock painting and hieroglyphics in ancient China. The early rock painting relies on images and symbols to capture the daily life of our ancestors, such as, hunting, gathering, dancing, and celebrating. The rock painting reveals their living conditions, thoughts, the original totem worship, and their view of life. The most outstanding feature of the rock painting is its faithfulness to nature. It captures the objectives of the main characters and reveals them vividly with the help of images and symbols, becoming the rudiment of Chinese painting. Chinese hieroglyphics rely on images to express meanings. The history of the Yellow Emperor in China pointed out, “Cangjie, the inventor of Chinese characters in legend, bent over to read the patterns on the tortoise, bird feather, mountains, rivers and palms to create Chinese characters.” Later on, seal script, clerical script, regular script, cursive script, and many other scripts were invented. Chinese calligraphy and painting use the same set of tools for art creation, and the features of Chinese calligraphy are introduced in Chinese painting; therefore, the two are actually homologous in some ways. The figures of Chinese hieroglyphics illustrate that the image is the main feature of Chinese painting and fosters the thinking mode of the imagery modeling in Chinese painting.

During its more than two thousand years of development, Chinese painting has continuously completes its theory and style. The traditional Chinese painting system is divided into figure painting, landscape painting, and bird-and-flower painting that thrive with many eminent matters separately. In the system, imagery modeling has always been the rule of art abided by the Chinese painting. The imagery modeling is neither an utterly objective concretization, nor is it an abstraction free from the subject matter, instead, it is somewhere in between. Artists rely on imagery thinking to present the intangible spirit and charm of a subject matter and to convert the natural morphology to imagery art forms for the audience to appreciate and admire.

The core value of Chinese culture is the unity of man and nature. Artists unify their hearts with the universe and observe the world to capture the beauty in life. The objects, the feelings, and the culture react on each other and the chemical reaction produces numerous images. Chinese brushworks are exquisite but are not confined to the image. Freehand works are free of style but are not away from the image. Both of the art forms reflect the understanding of Chinese artists towards traditional Chinese culture and the masterful techniques in Chinese paintings. From rules to no rules, Chinese artists rely on the unique imagery thinking and the particular way of expression embedded in Chinese painting to fully express the spirits and characters of this era and the inspiration and cultural achievements of themselves to reach a higher level.

Since the 1990s, the process of China’s reform and opening up has sped up. Under the trend of globalization, the impact on Chinese painting led by the new cultural movement, artistic concepts, painting ideas, and means of expression increases day by day. How to learn from other advanced cultures to keep pace with the times is the daunting issue for century-old Chinese painting facing contemporary Chinese artists. Today, talented individuals emerge in succession in the circle of Chinese painting; gifted artists are beyond count. What they need to work on is how to reflect the living environment and spiritual world of the contemporary society, how to count on creative painting language to express the humanistic care, and how to build a harmonious spiritual homeland for human beings and nature.

"The Image of China, the exhibition of contemporary Chinese ink painting and sculpture", selects 60 Chinese painters active in the contemporary art circle. They are the forerunners in contemporary Chinese painting and the 60 pieces of artwork reflect the status quo of Chinese painting. From the exhibits we can see that the artists are all aware of the saying that “art should keep pace with the time,” and they express the new century and the new vision with the help of the latest art language. On the one hand, art language expands the techniques of traditional Chinese painting; on the other hand, it endows the meaning of a new era of traditional Chinese painting, making the dots and lines, rich and weak colors, splash-ink, and splash-color brim over with vitality. These pieces of artwork convey the real feelings buried deep inside the artists, and they reveal the personal feelings and personal style of the artists, as well as the bright characters of the era.

Among these works, LIU Dawei expresses the charm of traditional Chinese painting with professional skills and accurate images. FENG Yuan endows traditional Chinese painting with new meanings through masterful techniques and rich accumulation of Chinese culture and art and precise modeling ability. LIU Jude conveys the vivid images through his ink artwork. CHEN Suping emphasizes the expression of inner image. LI Chuanzhen forges the image of urban migrant workers as a body of flesh with sincere humanistic care. YUAN Wu creates the touch of power and force in his artworks. The landscape painting of ZHU Daoping reveals the harmonious and peaceful feeling of the painter. The ink painting of TIAN Liming is presented as a Chinese watercolor painting that conveys the beauty of purity. SHAO Fei creates a world of romance with a painting blazing with colors. The work of DU Dakai follows his heart and spontaneously reveals a wonderland with simple contrast of geometric construction and colors. ZHANG Lizhu relies on the imagery modeling to showcase the values of modern Chinese farmers in the hope of arousing the awareness of people to the countryside culture. ZHANG Peicheng uses exaggerating and distorted images to bring about the sense of humor.

In brief, one artist differs from another with his distinctive style and feature. The development of contemporary Chinese painting is closely related to the history of Chinese society and the philosophical ideas and aesthetic viewpoint of oriental culture. We firmly believe that with the help of these works of art, French people will better understand Chinese painting and the unique beauty it possesses.

Ma Shulin

Deputy Director of the National Art Museum of China, Professor

March 2014

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[Editor] 孙雯