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.

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

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 linqi@chi­


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.

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