Art hubs unite
Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin and Chongqing all have vibrant artistic communities. A recent forum looked at the best ways to encourage artists to continue their practice and produce works. Lin Qi reports.
Beijing and Shanghai have long beenknown as artistic hubs, while lesser-known Tianjin and Chongqing also embrace booming art scenes with distinctive local features. A recent forum in Beijing was aimed at broadening artistic exchanges among the four municipalities. Attendees discussed not only artistic creations but also art popularization and the development of a sustainable art market.
Organized by the Beijing Cultural Development Foundation, the forum on Dec 28 was held on the sidelines of an exhibition at the Beijing World Art Museum that showcased the latest calligraphy and inkand-water paintings by artists from the four cities.
Boasting rich and dynamic cultural traditions, the municipalities are also where the country’s major art colleges are located and have cultivated generations of artists. Liu Mingxiao, from the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute in Chongqing, for example, has been experimenting with incorporating the concept of Chinese ink art into oil painting. His canvases, which were on show, often feature common motifs in ink-andwater paintings, such as ceramics andlotuses, through layers of vibrant acrylic paints.
Painters, calligraphers and art commentators said at the forum that inter-city art exhibitions and talks should be held periodically to enrich regional art scenes.
Zhang Yugang, vice-chairman of the Chongqing Calligraphers Association, said it was a shame that the inconvenience of long-distance travel meant few Chongqing artists could display their works at the exhibition; and as a result the outlook of Chongqing’s modern art was not properly represented.
“An important transportation hub (on the Yangtze River), Chongqing’s art also takes on a variety of influences, having borrowed a little from the north and a little from the south. We are open and love to learn from others,” Zhang says.
“After the outbreak of the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-45), many top artists gathered in Chongqing (the wartime auxiliary capital), which gave local art a big boost and had long-lasting impacts that can still be felt today.”
He suggested the exhibition be curated by the four cities in turns to influence local art communities and audiences in a more profound way.
He said that besides senior artists who inherited art traditions during wartime, a new generation is emerging with middle-aged and young artists actively engaging with seal cutting and seal script writing. And he hopes to offer a better showcase of their talents.
Art theorist Liu Longting echoes Zhang’s comments, agreeing that young painters have been brushing uptheiracademicstudiesandoverall abilities. He said many artists are good at brush techniques and sculpting but need to form their own styles.
He added that to make sure an inter-city art activity was a regular, high-quality event, the works on show should not have too short a time between commission and delivery. They should not have been exhibited many times — the common failings of many similar-looking exhibitions.
“Ink painting and calligraphy as traditional Chinese art should be in touch with the thinking of serious artists,” he says.
Meanwhile, the four municipalities have witnessed a mushrooming art market. Supporting more galleries has become an essential issue to the sustainability of local art development, according to Zhao Lizhong, a researcher with the ChinaNational Academy of Painting. He said more affordable prices offered at galleries made it possible for artworks to be purchased by families.
“If every newlywed couple can afford an ink painting or a calligraphy scroll — not large in size but decorative enough to brighten up their home — the market will have incredible prospects,” he says. Contact the writer at email@example.com.
Liu Mingxiao has been experimenting with incorporating the concept of Chinese ink art into oil painting.
Visitors view the latest works by artists from Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin and Chongqing at the Beijing World Art Museum.