Towards clarity and brightness
Chinese artist Feng Dazhong combines elaborate and impressionistic styles, tradition and innovation in his landscape and bird-and-flower paintings
The pursuit of elaborate and impressionistic styles by professional and amateur painters is an interesting topic in the history of Chinese painting. Fang Yizhi, a philosopher in the late Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and early Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), made a brilliant comment on this: “The painter who practices the elaborate
style is confined by the technique itself; the painter who practices the impressionistic style is confined by the unlimited space.” The elaborate style tends to be stiff and rigid while the impressionistic style tends to be vague and general. Until now, it is still an insurmountable bottleneck for many Chinese painters.
Chinese painter Feng Dazhong’s artistic exploration during recent years can be considered as a Chinese painter’s solution to this historic problem. His artistic ideal and pursuit focus on the basic aesthetics and brushstrokes in Chinese painting. He regards the elegance in traditional Chinese painting and sincerity and spontaneity in literati painting as his artistic pursuit. In recent years, Feng has conveyed his aesthetic ideal of combining elaborate and impressionistic styles, tradition and innovation in his landscape and bird-and-flower paintings.
Feng adopts the strategy of “one hand towards tradition, the other towards life,” searches for innovation on the basis of tradition and expands his brushstrokes on the basis of sketches. For the past decade, the Chinese painting market has been saturated and there have been a lot of brush associations and painting works, but in terms of artistic quality and innovation, there has been little progress.
After experiencing the untimely loss of relatives, Feng deepens his understanding of society and life. In his recent works, bird-and-flower paintings convey the harmony between life in nature and landscape paint- ings convey the clear and bright state in the world. If you say that Feng’s poetic works show concern for personal feelings before 2005, then his works after 2005 add more sense of history and show concern for the origin of life. They are simple and natural, expressing a vast and lofty eternity.
Feng thinks if a painter wants to find new things out from a very old subject he shall learn from tradition and life. This is the ultimate means and the absolute principle. Only by improving one’s knowledge and aesthetic tastes can one paint these old subjects. These subjects cannot be conveyed through mere splashing of brushstrokes but according to inner thoughts. The painter must first have this quality and knowledge then he can convey this artistic conception.
The road chosen by Feng is a traditional and innovative one. Throughout Chinese history, we can see innovations in different historical periods but every literary revolution is characterized by the return to the ancients such as Han Yu’s ancient literature movement. However, the purpose of recalling tradition is not to duplicate or repeat ancient masters’ arts. In Feng’s paintings, he not only emphasizes the modernity and originality of paintings but also shows concern for the culture itself and hopes Chinese painting can move to a higher and deeper level.
Feng studies ancient paintings in his studios and often copies an ancient painting dozens of times. After copying Bada Shanren’s works repeatedly, Feng knows Bada Shanren’s concise and compact use of brushstrokes and simple and elegant ink usage. This directly influences his mood in painting and makes him pay more attention to the division of black and white and the pursuit of spiritual states.
As Feng said, “I study these masters’ works not to make my works like them, but to transform out of tradition. I learn from life not to simply imitate their works, but to read their works more. Different from copying Chinese painters, my main technique is to explore subjects from life.”
In the big landscape painting such as Crystal Water, Frost Forest, Feng conducts innovative searches for paintings of streams in the mountains. He studies the ancient masters’ paintings of streams. It is mainly an impressionistic style and is composed of outlining and the composition of different lines that express the stream-like signs. However, Feng pays more attention to the texture of water, its movement, rhythm and saturation caused by the change of the stream, and it makes us feel that our souls are soaked in the sunshine and stream. Feng integrates his
The Lonely Between Heaven and Earth
Pine, High As The Mountain