Painting with a Free Heart

    By the middle and late l990s, the individua1ized re-creation of the artistic language became the crux for the artistic creation to evolve from the traditional manners and excessive artistic forms and patterns into a new and sound round of development. The voice of reform has never been silent in the field of the Chinese painting since the middle of l980s. As for the artistic practices and theoretical criticism, the debate and divergent views between the ink-and-brush centralists and their opponents have a1so been the same problems how the Chinese painting faces up to the changes of the objective reality to possess a unique spiritual quality in its language style. It should be noted that the debate and explorations of Chinese painting have been focused upon the landscape painting and figure painting, especial1y the latter which has broken away from its realistic style based upon sketching with the efforts of some young and middle--aged painters and entered into a level being directly confronted with the cultural and social criticism in the social realities. The connotations of cultural and social conceptions have played an important and decisive role in an individual application of ink and brush.

    In a sharp contrast, the flower-and-bird painting appeared more self satisfied and sluggish. However, the emergence and exhibiting of a great number of works of Shangguan Chaoying has injected great vitality into the painting and other schools of Chinese painting. The themes and forms of Chinese painting that Shangguan Chaoying has touched upon are comprehensive because he has more than 20 years of experiences of artistic practices and it is especially more attractive that he has made profound researches and conceptual thinking of daxieyi (daxieyi means a more unrest faint freehand brushwork of traditional Chinese Painting) and "ultra-daxieyi" in his flower-and-bird painting. The aesthetic value of a painting originates from a painter's application of inks and colors to create an aesthetic imagery beyond a specific object on a two-dimension surface. The creation of an imagery relies not only on the self cultivation of a painter, his comprehension's of the cultural and social traditions and repeated appraisals of the object, but also on each viewer's understanding and interpretations of images in paintings. Whatever happens, from the physical objects in objective existence to the visual imagery in painting and the imagery in the minds of creators and acceptors, the course of artistic creation continues in accordance with the idea that the works of visual art is a mirror of the objects of reality. The ways of creation in such a linear--like way of artistic thinking have constituted spheres of artistic expressions and artistic styles of numerous aesthetic objects in the development and transformation of Chinese painting. They are just like the kinks connecting in the rope of veins which have been extending from the origin of Chinese painting til1 now .This is the history of the development of the schools in Chinese painting. Facing up to the techniques of expressions, the artistic styles which have been accumulated for quite some time and the conceptions of value and the cultural traditions behind them, can we continue to do what artists have done along such a linear way in a pursuance of a completely new artistic style and forms in place of the imagery of reality to create an aesthetic image? In other words, does the aesthetic value of painting simply rely on the relationship of correspondence between the art and the reality, or an individualized style and pattern to create any aesthetic imagery in place of the objects of the reality?

    The emergence and existence of any ways of thinking and cognition depend upon the development and transformation of the objective reality of society. Under the tendency of globalization, the high level of saturation brought about by the primitive accumulation and knowledge will certainly enter into a new stage of sharing knowledge with the development of the information network of computers. Therefore, the aft, as a branch of the ancestry tree of human knowledge, has broken away both from its mechanical correspondences of themes, styles and forms and from the mirroring modes of seeking the origina1 art artistic language for a reflection of the reality (Such a reality is no longer unitary, static and isolated. Great changes have taken place within it.) and then entered an age of sharing, free re-grouping and re-creating of the artistic and knowledge property within the Western and Eastern spheres. Shangguang Chaoying has brought out specific values of his conception of "ultra-daxieyi" against the cultural background of our time. The first and the most striking impression of his painting is its oversize. Many of his paintings are of magnitude and generally have 3 square meters and above. As a result, he has enlarged the size of the flower-and-bird and fish--and--insect paintings, originally hung over the tables for leisure and pleasure of Chinese scholars, to such an extent that the visual shock that the viewers have received is beyond our imaginations. Standing in front of his works, viewers have no longer had such a sense of ease and distance as they usually have when visiting a gallery. They have merged themselves into the images in his paintings and shuttled back and forth in a spiritual and color space created by the artist. The great freedom of spirit and comp1etely new feeling originating from their appreciation's of these oversized paintings relies on Chaoying's efforts of individualized re-grouping and re-creation of the art artistic language and vocabulary of the traditional flower-and-bird painting. As we know, the principles, styles and techniques of Chinese flower-and-bird painting have already been established over long time. Therefore, in the mind of Shuangguan Chaoying, they are both rich heritages for reference and an insurmountable barrier It also seems that he has been subject to influences from the painting schools of modern and contemporary eras in style, but the viewers have more impressions of his daring and free grouping and founding of the art artistic styles and skills of his predecessors based on the mutual principle of freedom beyond space, time and experience. As for the compositions of his paintings, he has a free hand and maneuvers among various images. Some interleaved, some lonely and isolated, all of the images follow his free brush. The laws of changes of nature all around the year in his paintings are completely subject to his aesthetic requirements. The harmony and complementation of the brightness and difference of colors have profited much from the dark background and the blocks and outlines of main images among which are adored with various dots of azurite, mineral green, artistic purple, apricot ye1low or original] colors in sharp contrast. In his masterpiece of "Lotus Pond in Four Seasons", different sights of lotus in four seasons have been integrated perfectly into an organic whole as composed by God in Heaven. In sma1l paintings, we may say that images are described in certain skills and styles. However, in view of the painter's pursuance of aesthetic images beyond his experiences and his efforts of grouping, disintegrating and composing, it is reasonable to prove that his ability to control the whole process from disintegration to composition is the very result of his profound thinking about the possible orientation of the traditional Chinese painting at present and his artistic cultivation through years. In his own words, it is "to describe heart with heart and to apply colors at free will". On one hand, he has acquired a profound comprehension of such artistic rules as "creating images responding to the object, inheriting the traditions as models and applying different colors to different objects"; on the other hand, he has based himself upon the needs of the social and cultural development in contemporary realities to learn from the traditions and go beyond the traditions by merging the Chinese and Western artistic conceptions into an organic whole. It is the freedom of consciousness in process. As a result, it is not so dift1cult to understand the contributions that he has made to the development of daxieyi in the flower-and-bird painting.

    What is more, Shangguan Chaoying has gone a step further to prove his attitude towards free grafting and grouping of all of the established all artistic rules and styles with his special hemp paper added to the list of the materials of Chinese ink and wash. In a number of his ink and wash on hemp paper, the lines have been absorbed, digested and resolved on the coarse surface of the hemp paper. The permeability of the color block and Chinese ink and the fainting effect of colors have been reduced. However, the individualized aesthetic images stand vividly on the paper one after another and deeply impress the viewers.

    Generally speaking, Shangguan Chaoying has a profound understanding of the current status of the development of our contemporary culture and realized the transition of method of cognition and way of thinking in artistic creations. He has been practicing his personalized way of artistic creations and individualized way of forming his all artistic language. It is quite certain that he has already become a person of social recognition in the field of contemporary Chinese painting for his ability and free and easy attitude towards the art.

Song Zhong, late April,1997

(the famous art critic)

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