the Imagery Compositions in the Paintings of
Shangguan Chaoying

    From a historical point of view, the task of transforming forms and structures has a1ready been put forward to the flower-and-bird painters. My researches on some of the paintings by Shangguan Chaoying remind me of further pondering over such problems as the imagery characteristics and structural characteristics, spiritual formations and physical structures, etc. It is quite difficult for us to keep to the topic of the language transformations of the flower--and-bird painting if we are going to discuss any problems straying away from the subject of structures.

    Whether the flower-and-bird painting or the landscape painting, the Chinese ink and wash has her unique way to represent the painter's views about life, society and their experiences and observations of the nature and universe. The painters have made their distinctive choices of the space for their development and lebensraum based on their proper wisdom and comprehension's. They have different psychological tendencies and artistic temperament which play a decisive ro1e in their destiny. The imagery and structural characteristics which have been magnified and exaggerated have already become Shangguan Chaoying's optimal choice. Whether he is written into the history or not depends on his abi1ity to raise any new questions and to solve these new problems in his special ways, he has his clear-cut artistic and cultural orientation.

    From the era of Zhouyi and the Six Dynasties (222-589) when Liu Xie frontally presented his aesthetic conception of images till now, Chinese artists have been given impetus to review their own artistic way of thinking in the object world to be distillated into a realm of lofty art. Painters have ceased to annotate objects and, in turn, by searching, examining, musing, looking back at the inner world, begun to comprehend the moral powers of the human beings in order to integrate his artistic creation with the streamlined way of the theory that man is an integral part of nature and regard the subjective idea as soul of the imageries all along. Without any doubt, it is a collective achievement of the development of the Confucian, Taoist and Zenist Cultures. I have found that Shangguan Chaoying is quite extraordinary for his intelligence and talent.

    Shangguan Chaoying once named his composition of imagery forms as "ultra-daxiyi" (daxieyi means a more unrestraint freehand brush- work in traditional Chinese painting), but I'd like to make a suggestion of some corrections, i.e. "featured composition of imagery". I don't know Chaoying agrees with it or not. Its basic meaning is an exaggeration of a concentrated reflection in a painting to disp1ay the moral vitality of the human being and the life in the universe by simplifying the complicated Objects. This is a composition of the grand imagery containing the imagery compositions of the heaven, the earth and the man. The compositions of the featured imagery that Shangguan Chaoying has created are the prominent points of the objects and restfuctllred compositions identical to the subject consciousness. Therefore, the images in his paintings are strikingly impressive and metaphysically transcendental. They are the images of subject spirit that he has created from his experiences, fi1led with profound psychological senses. That is why the viewers have received strong visual shocks.

    The composition of the featured image is just like a full-length shot providing the viewers an enlargement of the outer characteristics. Its outstanding feature is the modernity of compositions and vigor of the artistic language which put forward an ultimate language, i.e. the ultimate b1ack is incomparab1e and so is the white, the red and the yellow. The nautical language is no more than a chorus.

    It is quite significant to pursue an ultimate language of composition at present. In my opinion, this is the key point of the transformations of the flower-and-bird painting. Whether the spirit llal formations, physical structures, beam column structures, block structures and radiation sttictllres, or the argument that form is more important than spirit, or vice versa, composition is the key point of the language transformations. It is praiseworthy that Shangguan Chaoying has had a clear sense of such a point and made some achievements in this part. In my opinion, the essence of the modern language of Chinese bird-and-flower painting should be as follows: integrated activities of thinking should be above brush and ink, the transcendentalness above the empiricaIness, and expressions of structural and metaphorical symbolism.

    I remember that I once told an Indonesian friend that "we cannot create a visual shock if we do not have an amazing power of the artistic language. In a same sense, we are far away from the modernity of the artistic language if we do not have an unconventional language of artistic compositions". In view of the paintings of Shangguan Chaoying, his article is the very reflection.

    The composition of a featured imagery is just like a building. Without the composition, there will be no vitality of the featured imagery. It is quite certain that we will surely not enter upon the stage of modern expressions if we have no eyes to the enriched expressions of the compositions in the flower-and-bird painting. The viewers have already sensed his high spirit and shocking efforts. This is mainly the effect of expressiveness of compositions. It is true of my hope that he shakes off the changeless influences of his predecessors as early as possible. The more preeminent he is above the others, the less vestiges of others in his paintings and the more of his values and energy will be brought out. Additionally, a modern painter ought to expand his horizons and space for thinking and have a magnanirnous psychology to take the best of the other schoo1s in order to go from the traditions to the modern and from home to abroad. It will be his unique ingenuity if he is able to give a deflniteposition for the culture in developing Chinese ink painting from her classical form into a modern one.

Zhou Shaohua, Qingdao Beach
August 9, l997
(Zhou Shaohua. a famous painter and art critic )

MOBILE:(0)13905301699 (0)13605303333(0)13061556666
TEL:0530-5313333(H) FAX:0530-5569933