Yuan Xikun’s Art Diplo­macy

“I have no prob­lem with artists who hide in ivory tow­ers, ex­press them­selves in a limited for­mat and pro­duce mea­ger work,” Yuan de­clares. “But my own phi­los­o­phy is that an artist should use tal­ent to re­pay so­ci­ety and ad­dress con­cerns clos­est to the peopl

China Pictorial (English) - - Contents - Text by Li Zhuoxi

At age 74, Yuan Xikun has been hailed as an “art wizard” af­ter cre­at­ing mas­ter­pieces in oil paint­ing, ink paint­ing and sculp­ture. He has also been dubbed an “artis­tic diplo­mat” and ac­tively par­tic­i­pated in in­ter­na­tional cul­tural and artis­tic ex­change with fruit­ful re­sults.

Yuan is a world-renowned painter and sculp­tor, as well as a mem­ber of the Stand­ing Com­mit­tee of the 12th Na­tional Com­mit­tee of the Chi­nese Peo­ple’s Po­lit­i­cal Con­sul­ta­tive Con­fer­ence, and cu­ra­tor of Bei­jing Jin­tai Art Mu­seum.

Wel­come to the Jun­gle

Yuan Xikun was born in Au­gust 1944 in Kun­ming, Yun­nan Prov­ince. His fa­ther, Yuan Xiao­cen, was a fa­mous mas­ter of Chi­nese paint­ing, and his mother was a bi­ol­ogy teacher. Grow­ing up in such a fam­ily, Yuan

was deeply in­flu­enced by fam­ily tra­di­tion and be­came ob­sessed with na­ture and an­i­mals.

In 1962, 18-year-old Yuan Xikun en­rolled in the high school at­tached to the Kun­ming In­sti­tute of Arts. A rare op­por­tu­nity at the school en­abled him to ac­com­pany a group of lit­er­ary and art work­ers on a trip to eth­nic mi­nor­ity set­tle­ments deep in the moun­tains, which broad­ened his vi­sion. He be­came even more fas­ci­nated with na­ture and an­i­mals and con­tin­ued down the path to­wards his art ca­reer.

As a young painter in the 1970s, Yuan fol­lowed an in­spec­tion team or­ga­nized by the In­sti­tute of Zo­ol­ogy un­der the Chi­nese Academy of Sciences to Xishuang­banna in Yun­nan Prov­ince to draw an­i­mal spec­i­mens. He then spent five years liv­ing in the jun­gle—a dense for­est along the south­west­ern border of China. He be­came com­pletely im­mersed in the cre­ation of an­i­mal paint­ings.

If the words and deeds of his fa­ther and men­tor Jiang Zhaohe laid a solid foun­da­tion for his tra­di­tional Chi­nese paint­ing cre­ation, the long five years of ded­i­cated prac­tice in Xishuang­banna pro­vided an op­por­tu­nity for him to build a unique style.

The sketches from this pe­riod fu­eled the rest of his artis­tic ca­reer. For an artist, in­spi­ra­tion—the emo­tions and im­pulses of artis­tic cre­ation— strikes like light­ning. In Yuan’s art is the ad­vo­cacy of “mo­ment feel­ings,” which em­bed vivid­ness in each of his works, somthing that is hardly found in tra­di­tional paint­ings. Por­trait Diplo­macy

In the 1980s, China’s re­form and open­ing up pro­vided artists with rare his­tor­i­cal op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Yuan Xikun climbed to the peak of his ca­reer in lock­step with China’s rise af­ter the in­tro­duc­tion of the re­form and open­ing up: He fre­quently trav­eled abroad and caught global at­ten­tion with his unique artis­tic tech­niques and ex­pres­sive­ness.

In Jan­uary 1999, Yuan be­came the first Asian oil painter to hold a per­sonal exhibition at the United Na­tions head­quar­ters. Many of his oil paint­ings have been ac­quired by world-fa­mous mu­se­ums.

“Mr. Yuan’s great­ness lies in the com­bi­na­tion of an­cient and mod­ern art,” opined the cu­ra­tor of Ber­lin Mu­seum. “The themes and tech­niques of his paint­ings are rooted in the past, but his think­ing faces the fu­ture. He skill­fully

Yuan Xikun with his sculp­ture, Deng Xiaop­ing, Chief Ar­chi­tect of China’s Re­form and Open­ing Up.

Oc­to­ber 16, 1992: Yuan Xikun paints a por­trait of Nel­son Man­dela, then pres­i­dent of South Africa’s African Na­tional Congress.

Moun­tain Gen­tle­man by Yuan Xikun, oil on can­vas, 1955, housed at Bei­jing Jin­tai Art Mu­seum.

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