Solo ex­hi­bi­tion pays homage to a master pain­ter

Shanghai Daily - - ART - Wang Jie

GU Yux­ian, a fol­lower of master pain­ter Wu Chang­shuo (18441927), says he still can’t ex­plain why he loves Wu’s paint­ings so much.

Wu, a prom­i­nent pain­ter, cal­lig­ra­pher and seal artist, is con­sid­ered a lead­ing fig­ure in tra­di­tional Chi­nese paint­ing in the early years of the 20th cen­tury.

Hang Ying, Gu’s teacher, is one of the third gen­er­a­tion of Wu’s stu­dents.

Gu’s solo ex­hi­bi­tion ti­tled “The True Spirit of Na­ture” is cur­rently on dis­play at a re­sort ho­tel in Songjiang Dis­trict through Oc­to­ber 20.

Born in 1963 into a rich fam­ily in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, Gu says his fa­ther, an art teacher, taught him paint­ing and cal­lig­ra­phy. He re­calls be­ing asked to im­i­tate the script and cal­lig­ra­phy of an­cient mas­ters.

“At that time, I was flu­ent with many dif­fer­ent paint­ing styles, but I fa­vored Wu’s,” he says. “Even to­day, I can’t ex­plain why. It’s my des­tiny, or to be more ex­act, it was not that I chose his style, but it found me.”

Gu rarely takes part in artre­lated so­cial events but has lit­tle dif­fi­culty in earn­ing a liv­ing from sell­ing his work.

He lives in the sub­urbs of Shang­hai and de­votes most of his time to rice-pa­per paint­ings.

“I haven’t done any­thing else in the past decades other than paint­ing,” he says. “Money and fame re­ally aren’t so at­trac­tive to me al­though they are im­por­tant. But I am al­ready sat­is­fied with what life has given me.”

Gu’s sub­jects vary from fish, creep­ing plants and flow­ers to birds and in­sects. He ref­er­ences Wu’s free­hand brush strokes in the de­pic­tion of shrimp, herons, fish and cats.

Usu­ally the an­i­mals’ bod­ies are out­lined with sev­eral wild brush strokes in dif­fer­ent grades of black and gray, leav­ing a trace of Im­pres­sion­ism. But some re­al­is­tic brush strokes re­veal more de­tails in the heads of the an­i­mals he de­picts, adding a mod­ern touch to the genre.

“The more I prac­ticed, the deeper I ad­mired him (Wu),” he says. “I still clearly re­mem­ber the mo­ment when I saw an orig­i­nal plum blos­som paint­ing cre­ated by Wu at an auc­tion, I was so taken by it that tears came to my eyes.”

Wu is known for us­ing a sharp con­trast be­tween light and dark and be­ing a fore­run­ner in the use of a red color in­tro­duced from the West called “Western red” or yang hong. Art his­to­ri­ans also say he re­placed the small and metic­u­lous strokes of the time with large and bold strokes de­rived from cal­lig­ra­phy to­gether with the “Western red” to cre­ate paint­ings that were fresh, full of vi­tal­ity and ob­vi­ously dif­fer­ent.

“But I am not a copy maker. I want to ab­sorb the essence of Wu’s style and de­velop some­thing of my own,” Gu says.

In­ter­twined creep­ers that Gu painted re­cently for this ex­hi­bi­tion are filled with mo­tion and rhythm, and drew com­ments from art crit­ics for “in­her­it­ing the real spirit of Wu’s free­dom in art.”

Gu Yux­ian’s paint­ing im­i­tates the ex­act style of master pain­ter Wu Chang­shuo.

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