Dong Xiyuan: Paint­ing To­mor­row

On the foun­da­tion of in­her­it­ing the artis­tic tra­di­tion of Chi­nese paint­ing, con­tem­po­rary Chi­nese painter Dong Xiyuan has built an artis­tic lan­guage that re­flects the spirit of the times.

China Pictorial (English) - - Contents - Text by Fan Di’an

The long his­tory of Chi­nese paint­ing art is sated with nu­mer­ous great artists and works alike. How can peo­ple to­day in­herit tra­di­tion while devel­op­ing a new artis­tic lan­guage that cap­tures the spirit of the times? Dong Xiyuan, a con­tem­po­rary Chi­nese painter, has come up with some an­swers. After a long pe­riod of ex­plor­ing spe­cific tech­niques and paint­ing lan­guages, Dong suc­cess­fully in­ter­nal­ized the most im­por­tant el­e­ments of tra­di­tional Chi­nese paint­ing and in­jected them into his own ex­pe­ri­ences and ex­pres­sive­ness, re­sult­ing in an im­pres­sive com­bi­na­tion of tra­di­tion and in­no­va­tion.

As an artist, Dong is firmly grounded in his own era and de­ter­mined to do it jus­tice. Chi­nese so­ci­ety is wit­ness­ing dra­matic changes, and Chi­nese cul­ture is re­ceiv­ing in­creas­ing at­ten­tion from around the world. For many years, Dong has re­mained pas­sion­ate and ide­al­is­tic in his art phi­los­o­phy. He is de­ter­mined to write a chap­ter in art his­tory with his brush.

The over­all goals for Chi­nese paint­ing of this new era have posed se­ri­ous chal­lenges for paint­ing prac­ti­tion­ers: How should they in­ter­pret tra­di­tion, and what spe­cific lan­guage style should be used? At the same time, this era has also pro­vided many pos­si­bil­i­ties. Dong has worked hard on land­scape paint­ings and flower-and-bird paint­ings, and be­come pro­fi­cient in vis­ual ex­pres­sion in both fields.

Tra­di­tional Chi­nese land­scape paint­ings must de­pict ob­jects, and more im­por­tantly, ex­press emo­tions be­cause the prac­tice em­bod­ies the spir­i­tual pur­suit of “har­mony between man and na­ture” in an­cient Chi­nese phi­los­o­phy, awe and re­spect for na­ture, and con­nec­tions between the artist and the world. Dong’s land­scape paint­ings demon­strate a har­mo­nious fu­sion of ob­jects and emo­tions. His paint­ings are known for two distinc­tive fea­tures. The first is the pur­suit of the aes­thetic beauty of moun­tains and rivers. Dong fol­lowed the aca­demic method of an­cient Chi­nese artists to “sketch a draft from na­ture it­self.” He of­ten ven­tured through moun­tains and over wa­ters to in­ject the scenery into his land­scape art. In his work, we see myr­iad moun­tains and val­leys, tum­bling clouds, run­ning streams and ma­jes­tic wa­ter­falls, all of which demon­strate the mag­nif­i­cence of na­ture.

The other trait is that Dong’s land­scape paint­ings fea­ture an in­ge­nious com­bi­na­tion

of re­al­is­tic and free­hand styles. In gen­eral, his land­scape works fea­ture elab­o­rate and fine brush­work, but are a bit dif­fer­ent from tra­di­tional Chi­nese re­al­is­tic paint­ing. He pro­vides de­tails on the land­scape struc­ture and re­mains metic­u­lous in the usage of lines and col­ors. With his con­tem­po­rary land­scape paint­ings, Dong has formed a unique style marked by close at­ten­tion to de­tails, which ev­i­dences his ex­cel­lent tech­niques in paint­ing.

An old Chi­nese say­ing goes, “full­ness is beauty,” in ref­er­ence to an aes­thetic state of full­ness and abun­dance. In this re­spect, Dong’s land­scape paint­ings have achieved a rare bal­ance between a fas­ci­nat­ingly ma­jes­tic ap­pear­ance from a dis­tance and metic­u­lous de­tails up close. De­spite the fact that his style re­mains im­per­fect for now, Dong’s pur­suit rep­re­sents his in­de­pen­dent ex­plo­ration of land­scape paint­ings.

Dong’s bird-and-flower paint­ings share a sim­i­lar in­ner struc­ture. He de­picts vivid forms of flow­ers and birds the same way he com­poses land­scape paint­ings: with in­tri­cacy

of de­tail and out­stand­ing line shap­ing. But in these pieces, the fo­cus is on dis­play­ing a life form of hope.

Bird-and-flower paint­ings and land­scape paint­ings are two dif­fer­ent realms, but Dong has man­aged to tran­scend dif­fer­ent realms of art. He can ex­press his feel­ings nat­u­rally with his paint­ings, em­body­ing his deep im­mer­sion in art. He is also an artist per­sis­tent in cre­ation and has paid his dues in ex­plor­ing art. More im­por­tantly, he con­sid­ers it his own duty to pro­mote the de­vel­op­ment of Chi­nese paint­ing in the new era and views in­no­va­tion in Chi­nese paint­ing as his aca­demic goal. This mo­ti­vates him to keep mov­ing and chal­leng­ing him­self to reach new artis­tic heights. The essence of Chi­nese paint­ing is a con­tin­u­ous march to a higher spir­i­tual realm. Dong is well-ex­pe­ri­enced just as he reaches the prime age for artis­tic cre­ation. In the fu­ture, his paint­ing style will prob­a­bly branch out into more di­verse forms. From the per­spec­tives of paint­ing tech­niques, spirit and com­pe­tence, he has great po­ten­tial.

Sketch at U.S. West Coast, 168×96cm.

A Sketch of the Yel­low Moun­tain, 96×178cm, 2011.

Scenic View of Tow­er­ing Moun­tains, 375×145cm.

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