To­wards clar­ity and bright­ness

Chi­nese artist Feng Dazhong com­bines elab­o­rate and im­pres­sion­is­tic styles, tra­di­tion and in­no­va­tion in his land­scape and bird-and-flower paint­ings

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - FRONT PAGE - By Yin Shuangxi

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

Feng Dazhong. Photo: Cour­tesy of Feng Dazhong

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