Artists: Wang KeJu, Li XiaoLin,Wang JiaZeng,Yang HongWei,
Yang DaZhi, Zhang Ying,Chen XiaoDi
number 195 is the sum total of years that the participating
artists have been engaged in painting.
It's not about what you paint, but how you paint it - a
conceptual transformation in Chinese contemporary paintings.
A key element in evaluating canvas art, "painterliness",
indicates the visual form, marks of crafting and personalized
sentiments of a two-dimensional painting that lie beyond
the subject matter. Painterliness imbues a work with the
marks of humanity and life, producing the illusion of the
presence of the creator. Beginning with the '85 New Wave,
mainstream Chinese canvas paintings focused on using image
narratives to express social issues; after the arrival of
political pop and the cartoon generation, the impetus for
external image innovation began to wane, and artists began
trials in internal conceptual painting methodology, as we
see with the practices of such artists as Zeng Fanzhi
(wild strokes), Yin Zhaoyang (rotating sawtooth strokes)
and Wang Guangle (the technique of accumulated layers
of paints used on a coffin in ancient China). Conceptual-based
explorations in installation, video and new media are also
inspiring artists to rethink their painting methodology.
As part of a continuing research project on contemporary
painting, this exhibition will focus on ideas concerning
contemporary "painterliness". Through the exhibition
of artists' experimental innovations and conceptual thinking,
and through painting events /games that involve the participation
of a broader public, this exhibition will attempt to clarify
and expand our understanding of the "painterliness"
in Chinese artistic creation. The exhibition is composed
of three parts: artists' works, documents and audience interaction.
Part I: Painting Beyond Medium and Style
The artists in this exhibition all have zealous faith in
painting, maintaining purity in their painting in a time
of diversification in the mediums of artistic expression.
The number in the exhibition title is the sum total of
years that the participating artists have been engaged in
painting; this astonishing flood of time surges with
the waves of their tireless, almost punitive efforts in
the practice of painting. Among the featured painters there
are celebrities who are renowned throughout the art world
for their skills in form, and heroes of academia who have
broken all of the norms. These artists hail from different
backgrounds and academic experiences, practice in oil, ink,
pencil drawing and printmaking, and have styles ranging
from the realist to the highly experimental. Through their
extraordinary control of painting skills, these artists
have all displayed an intense desire for innovation. This
exhibition's focus is on their systematic approaches and
thinking methods. The divergence in their works and concepts
will test all of our convictions about painting.
Part II: Research Documents on Painterliness
The participating artists have been asked to respond to
the following questions, which provide a clearer understanding
of their methodologies on painterliness:
1. What is the most important original aspect of your methodology?
2. The ancient craft of painting is being gradually inundated
by new art forms. Where does your value lie as a painter?
The "gulfs" between the various artists and the
diversity of their academic orientations guarantee rich
documentation which will overturn common conceptions of
painting, and bring out new possibilities.
Part III: Painting Training and Audience Participation
The artists have been asked to produce executable painting
training programs that will elucidate their conceptions
of painting methodology.
Requirements for the Painting Training Program:
1. The program must be unconventional, and imbue painting
with a new perspective on action;
2. The program must be fun, suited for non-professionals;
they must be applicable with the simplest pens and papers.
This is an integral component of the exhibition. During
the exhibition, roughly 400 members of the audience (from
all ages of adults and students) will be invited to engage
in a game of painting based on the artists' methodologies.
As these training plans are implemented, we will be able
to observe the emergence of new possibilities.
Play Drawing Games with your Friends!
Drawing with Limited Edition of 500
Color Pencils~ A Special Collaboration Project with Felissimo
Game 1: What do you make of my squiggle?
Number of Players: 2 or more.
Tools: Pieces of paper/ Pencils
This game is about making something out of nothing.
Step 1: Everybody makes some random marks on their
paper. Don't think what it might be, it's just a squiggle!
Step 2: All pass your squiggle to the person next
to you and say: "What do you make of that?!"
Step 3: Look at the squiggle and simply turn it into
something. Rotating the paper can help set your imagination
Game 2: Three parts people!
Number of Players: 3 (or 4).
Tools: A piece of rectangular paper for each player/pencils/sticky
Step 1: Have a chat about what sort of character
you are going to draw together. It can be any type of person!
A mermaid, a strongman, a clown, someone famous, a policewoman,
a spaceship captain, anything you like - but you must all
Step 2: Each of you is going to draw a different
part of the person so choose who is going to do which bit.
The three parts are: head, body and legs. (A fourth player
could do a hat or feet.)
Step 3: Draw your part on your own piece of paper.
Take care and think about patterns and details. Try to keep
what you are drawing hidden from the other players!
Step 4: When everyone has finished, tape the parts
together and admire your handiwork!
* The Above 2 Games are Produced
by Flow Associates for the Campaign for Drawing and the
Campaign for Family Learning.
Game 3: Dialogue by Drawing
Number of Players: 2
Tools: Pieces of paper\Pens or pencils.
The first person draws to imply what is on his/her mind,
and pass the paper to the 2nd person, who draws out what
he/she can understand from the first person's drawings.
After a few rounds of dialogue, make up a story based on
these drawings, which can be totally different from the
actual meaning. No oral/literal communication is allowed
during the drawing process.
Homework 1: Draw a portrait of your Mother or Dad,
your wife or husband (cartoon or realist style); Try to
be expressive to tell the personality or personal story
between you and the character. Leave the picture quietly
as surprise for him (her).
Homework 2: Research and study Mind Map invented
by Tony Buzan, try to use it in your study or works.
Oil Painting-Wang KeJu (1956~),
Head of Painting Dept.,
Xu BeiHong Academy of Fine Art [45 Years of Painting]
In middle school I always dreamed of getting a book
on painting. One time I borrowed the book Wu Ding's
Landscape Paintings from a classmate, and it was
like I'd found buried treasure. Every day and night
for a week I sat and copied each of the paintings
on the book. This book kept me excited for a very
long time. Later, I went on to copy from publications
like Anatomy for Art and the American Painting
and the Body and Body Structure for Art. Even
now, thinking back gets me excited. I don't know where
all that energy came from!
Drawing-Li XiaoLin (1961~),
Associate Professor of Central Academy of Fine Art [38
Years of Painting]
to painting happened during the tumultuous Mao Zedong
years. When the old man passed away in 1976, it was
a great shock to me. I felt like the sky was falling
down. A lot of stuff happened to the country that year.
That was the year I joined the army, and the first big
thing that happened there was that I painted two massive
portraits of Mao Zedong and then Chairman Hua
Guofeng in the main ceremonial hall. When the portraits
were hung behind the stage in the ceremonial hall, and
I sang the Internationale with my fellow soldiers, I
felt my blood rushing through my body. I was sixteen
Chalk & Etching-Wang JiaZeng (1963~),
Associate Professor, Lu Xun Academy of Fine Art [35
Years of Painting]
My earliest brush with painting can be traced
back to imitating paintings in children's books, and
the Workers, Peasants and Soldiers Book of Painting
in Cultural Revolution period; I did it along the road,
on the walls, anywhere convenient. It was a lot of fun.
This "street art" got me into the primary
school art club drawing pictures for the blackboard
announcements. Later on, when I became a factory worker,
I took jobs as a furnace worker and as a watchman so
I would have time to draw. I remember once, after I
got into the Lu Xun Academy, I was at Mohe Beiji Village
doing life studies paintings, and ran out of money.
I ran off to the local government hotel and painted
wall paintings to earn some money to eat and make my
way home. I just walked and painted. It was a spiritual
HongWei (1968~), Lecturer
of Central Academy of Fine Art [20 Years of Painting]
DaZhi (1977~), Lecturer
of Lu Xun Acedemy of Fine Art [23 Years of Painting]
In sixth grade, I drew a propaganda image about
learning from Uncle Lei Feng on the blackboard.
Not long after, the school was relocated, and the building
was torn up. I went back to take a look one day, and
my classroom had been almost totally flattened, except
for the wall hanging the blackboard. Lei Feng
was still there in his red bandana, saluting me.
XiaoDi (1982~), Lecturer
of Central Academy of Fine Art [18 Years of Painting]
I was young, if I couldn't draw something well, I'd
just keep drawing it until I was satisfied. I have a
sketch book that's full of all kinds of pictures I drew
of peaches. Back then, no matter how I tried, I just
couldn't make perfect peaches like the ones in Chinese
New Year's posters. So I decided to draw some, and I
filled up a whole book. I wouldn't let people criticize
me, either. Once my mother asked me, "what is this?"
I said, "it's a peach". She said, "since
when do peaches look like this?" I replied, "I
only draw rotten peaches."
of Central Academy of Fine Art [16 Years of Painting]
What I remember the most was how hard it was
learning painting as a child. I had a special dislike
for depicting things I didn't have any feelings for.
In middle school, the teachers made us draw from plasters,
and that's what I hated the most. I just couldn't understand
why plaster drawing had to be part of art training.
If you wanted to draw a person, just draw a person.
Why do you have to draw a plaster person? I skipped
a lot of classes back then, but to this day, my middle
school teachers still remember me fondly.
Notes from the Curator:
I. The Issue of Painterliness in Chinese Contemporary
Art: A Mixed Influence of Eastern and Western Traditions,
and the Contemporary Spirit
The issue of painterliness is intertwined with the progression
of art history: the impressionists' infatuation with light,
the expressionists' focus on inner emotions, pop art's treatment
of public images, etc. The various schools of art have had
a comprehensive effect on evaluations of Chinese contemporary
painting (perhaps because the latter is in itself a synthesis
of the various schools of western art). Classical Chinese
ink painting is rife with the results of painterly aesthetics
and methodologies; the ink and the ideas have woven together
to form a luxurious robe that fetters the creator. After
traditional ink painting was left speechless in the face
of contemporary issues, Chinese painters began using western
mediums, mainly oil painting, to explore new possibilities
of transferring and marrying traditional Chinese painterliness,
or they began experimentation in cross-media practices on
Contemporary art mentally obliterated the boundary between
the grand narrative and the personal quotidian. In everything
from subject matter to technique, painting moved from elitist
purity to mundane spontaneity and subjective expression.
The heroes have died and faith has gone missing; all has
been inundated by the flood of the quotidian. Meanwhile,
the values judgments of painterliness have manifested as
a mix of divergent conceptions - a move from the realm of
traditional aesthetics towards subjective subconscious,
pop, street culture and spontaneity, heavily burdened by
eastern traditions. As a result, perception of Chinese contemporary
art's painterliness appears extraordinarily muddled and
A Murky Evaluation of Painterliness in Chinese Art:
1) It is a question of skill and taste; it is also a conceptual
and metaphysical issue;
2) Its conception and territory are vague, an issue that
is both of aesthetics and beyond it;
3) It is a form of subjective empiricism that synthesizes
the many painting styles of the west, following nostalgic
desires for the interrupted traditions of the east¡
The intention of this exhibition is in that it pulls out
the weeds growing over the issue of contemporary painterliness,
and goes on to clear up the issue and set boundaries.
II. 195 Years of Obsession: Innovative Contemporary
Critical thinking into painting methodology is perhaps a
motivation of changes in western art forms. In the west,
painting is not just a noun, it is more importantly a verb,
an active process, as when British artist David Hockney
used the optical devices to unlock the secrets of classical
masterpieces (Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the lost techniques
of the Old Masters,2001) . For contemporary Chinese artists,
the question is no longer about what to paint, but how to
paint it. From political pop to cartoon generation, Chinese
contemporary painting's original image inspiration has come
from American pop art and Japanese manga. Painting education
uses sketching and life studies methods, and is limited
to the realm of purely artistic aesthetic education. Perhaps
China needs innovative thinking on the methodology of painting
on a deeper level. This touches on how to continue historical
splendor and how Chinese contemporary painting can gain
cultural self confidence.
The featured artists in this exhibition have all used their
own particular methods to expand upon the old set patterns
of painting, bringing new suspense to the ancient tale of
painting. Wang Keju completes his paintings at the
actual scene of his landscapes. The direct experience of
nature inject a lively freehand nature into the internal
structure of his pictures. Through the past several decades
of his windy, dusty romance with the landscape, he has often
had to fasten his canvas onto trees to engage in painting.
Li Xiaolin's pencil drawing portraits on the Tibetan
Plateau are sopping with spirit and emotion, truly representative
of the passions of classical realism. Unlike those oil painters
who build their works from photos or human models, the oil
painted compositions of bronze engraver Wang Jiazeng
place more emphasis on subjectivity. The etching textures
lend a special feel to his oil color surfaces. Yang Hongwei's
woodcut lines are vivid and intricate, full of the richness
and expressiveness of brushstrokes. They seem to spread
out like lines of diffusing ink; their painterliness seems
to have a self-contained spirit of its own. Yang Dazhi,
who teaches at the Lu Xun Art Academy's Chinese Painting
Department, tries to break out of the classical patterns
of the ink wash and the eastern cultural context. He cherishes
the joy of the painting process. The unique bleeding effects
of scroll paper complement the smearing, stacking and splashing
of colors. The clear, translucent colors convey subjects
such as bubbles, crystals and lamps, whose lighting and
transparency are often difficult to grasp in the language
of ink wash, thereby expanding the richness of ink wash
art. He is trying to face his inner heart with the playfulness
of a brush. Zhang Ying is seeking out the synthesis
of the body, the sense of touch and the visual experience.
Her massive horizontal depictions of the human figure spare
no effort to attain purity, but nevertheless create a visually
dazzling effect. The classical Chinese freehand ink wash
style branches and leaves of Chen Xiaodi's works
carry curled up body forms, like fruits of life¡.
The encroachment of new contemporary art forms on painting
may be inevitable, but when it comes to these artists, painting,
like writing by hand, has become a need in and of itself.
Hence, painterliness has for them become an extension of
their individual lives. Their widely divergent painting
practices all glitter with the splendor of human creative
III. The Importance of Public Participation
Chinese painting is rooted in the literati tradition, and
is limited to elite circles. While the concept of western
drawing is much broader, transcending the realms of pure
artistic creation and aesthetic education, extending into
other fields such as science and psychology. It has broad
social applications. Ideas such as the Mind Map have long
ago become popular means of education through visual thinking.
While this exhibition engages a dialogue between divergent
artworks, it also invites the participation of those from
outside of the art profession, expanding the issue of contemporary
Chinese painterliness into a wider field.