Por­trait of Mod­ern Chi­nese Paint­ing: Wang Xi­jing’s Ink

To create mod­ern Chi­nese paint­ing art, Wang Xi­jing has been con­stantly ex­plor­ing the in­fi­nite pos­si­bil­i­ties of free­hand brush­work in Chi­nese ink and wash paint­ing.

China Pictorial (English) - - CONTENTS - Text by Shao Dazhen

Wang Xi­jing, born in Xi’an in China’s north­west­ern province of Shaanxi in 1946, is a mem­ber of the China Artists As­so­ci­a­tion (CAA) and the Chi­nese Paint­ing Art Com­mit­tee un­der the CAA. He serves as deputy di­rec­tor of the Chi­nese Paint­ing In­sti­tute and part-time pro­fes­sor at the Chi­nese Na­tional Academy of Arts. He is also a mem­ber of the 12th Na­tional Com­mit­tee of the Chi­nese Peo­ple’s Po­lit­i­cal Con­sul­ta­tive Con­fer­ence (CPPCC) and a deputy to the 9th and 10th Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress (NPC).

He has held more than 30 ex­hi­bi­tions in Bri­tain, France, Sin­ga­pore and else­where and won nu­mer­ous hon­ors and awards at home and abroad, in­clud­ing the ti­tle of “Na­tional Ex­pert with Out­stand­ing Con­tri­bu­tions” from the State Coun­cil of China and the spe­cial award of the an­nual in­ter­na­tional Salon ex­hi­bi­tion in the Lou­vre.

Con­sid­ered one of China’s most rep­re­sen­ta­tive fig­ure painters by Liu Dawei, pres­i­dent of the CAA, Wang Xi­jing and his work have ex­erted a pro­found in­flu­ence on the devel­op­ment of Chi­nese fig­ure paint­ing.

Af­ter study­ing his ink and wash paint­ings and fol­low­ing his artis­tic devel­op­ment path over the decades, it is clear that Wang is a painter with cul­tural self-con­scious­ness and the abil­ity to ad­vance with the times. His works re­flect the changes of his times from so­cial con­scious­ness to aes­thetic ideals. And his per­sonal aes­thetic ten­dency re­flects his deep un­der­stand­ing of tra­di­tional Chi­nese art.

Wang Xi­jing be­gan work­ing af­ter grad­u­at­ing from art school in 1968. By copy­ing an­cient fig­ure paint­ings and comic paint­ings, he honed his skills, es­pe­cially in linebased Chi­nese paint­ing.

From 1969 to 1974, he cre­ated two out­stand­ing comic books, The

Viet­namese Heroine and Ar­rowswhistling through the­for­est, which raised eye­brows

in art and comics cir­cles.

In 1978, he edited and pub­lished the book Tech­niques of Line-draw­ing

in Chi­nese Fig­ure Paint­ing, which sys­tem­at­i­cally in­tro­duced and de­tailed line-draw­ing tech­niques of tra­di­tional fig­ure paint­ing. The work also demon­strates that Wang un­der­stood the value of tra­di­tional Chi­nese paint­ing ear­lier than his peers.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the col­li­sion be­tween Chi­nese and West­ern arts ex­erted a pro­found in­flu­ence on tra­di­tional Chi­nese art, trans­form­ing it into mod­ern art, es­pe­cially the field of fig­ure paint­ing.

Cre­at­ing “new-style” ink and wash fig­ure paint­ings with both strong tra­di­tional Chi­nese style and mod­ern ap­peal is a dif­fi­cult but worth­while art project that re­quires con­tin­u­ing ef­forts of artists across gen­er­a­tions.

When Wang be­gan ex­plor­ing the realm of mod­ern fig­ure paint­ing, he rec­og­nized this prob­lem. By study­ing a series of his­tor­i­cal fig­ure paint­ings, he grad­u­ally de­vised a method to solve it. Dis­ap­pear­ing Foot­steps, a work com­pleted in 1984, most dis­tinctly em­bod­ies his achieve­ments dur­ing this era.

Af­ter the mid-1980s, Wang’s un­der­stand­ing of the tra­di­tional cul­tural spirit as well as the unique con­cepts and skills of Chi­nese paint­ing deep­ened ex­po­nen­tially. New artis­tic pur­suits and dras­tic changes in artis­tic style can eas­ily be pin­pointed in his work dur­ing this pe­riod of time.

In a series of his­tor­i­cal fig­ure paint­ings rep­re­sented by China’s

Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Lead­ers and Lu Xun (1881-1936, con­tem­po­rary Chi­nese

writer and thinker), he placed more fo­cus on in­creas­ing the ex­pres­sive force of the lines and the role of void in the lay­out, strate­gies more in line with free­hand brush­work and tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­tural spirit. He con­cealed re­al­ism while al­low­ing it to still be felt, es­pe­cially in char­ac­ter-shap­ing.

Wang Xi­jing at­tributes the change in style to the ac­cu­mu­la­tion of prac­ti­cal ex­pe­ri­ences and a new un­der­stand­ing of Chi­nese paint­ing. From a wider per­spec­tive, it is the log­i­cal evo­lu­tion of Chi­nese paint­ing that com­bines “old” (an­cient Chi­nese paint­ing tra­di­tion in­clud­ing literati paint­ing) and “new” (tra­di­tion since the May Fourth Move­ment).

We must face the fact that con­tem­po­rary Chi­nese fig­ure paint­ings are rooted in the pro­found tra­di­tion of Chi­nese cul­ture and art. How­ever, this does not mean that we should sim­ply cling to the old way, but in­stead draw im­por­tant nour­ish­ment from pro­found cul­tural tra­di­tions such as literati paint­ing. New-style re­al­is­tic fig­ure paint­ings must re­flect the Chi­nese spirit.

Wang Xi­jing clearly grasps the essence of the prob­lem and se­ri­ously con­sid­ers the im­por­tant con­cepts of “Chi­nese tra­di­tion,” “time” and “per­son­al­ity.”

This is why the change in his paint­ing style is nat­u­ral. We can see that many of his fig­ure paint­ings fea­ture an­cient literati or po­ets and place par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion on the us­age of tra­di­tional ink paint­ing tech­niques. More im­por­tantly, these paint­ings fea­ture the most dis­tinc­tive char­ac­ter­is­tics of Wang Xi­jing: fresh style and el­e­gant, vivid and ro­bust im­ages.

By deeply un­der­stand­ing the phi­los­o­phy, style and skills of tra­di­tional Chi­nese art while main­tain­ing a broad cul­tural vi­sion, Wang Xi­jing has de­vel­oped the be­lief that an artist should make ef­forts to bridge tra­di­tional and

mod­ern arts. To create mod­ern Chi­nese paint­ing art, he is con­stantly think­ing and cre­at­ing. Some of his works have tran­scended the scope of fig­ure paint­ing, show­ing artis­tic con­cep­tion with con­cise, im­plicit or even ob­scure tech­niques, re­flect­ing his feel­ings about life, his­tory and the uni­verse. He is ded­i­cated to ex­plor­ing the in­fi­nite pos­si­bil­i­ties of free­hand brush­work in Chi­nese ink and wash paint­ing.

Spring in the Air, 170×126cm, 2017

An Old Su­danese Man, 126×100cm, 2017

Amma, 121×94cm, 2017.

Ea­gle (Kaza­khstan), 137×144cm, 2017.

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