金沙 Jin Sha
吕鹏 Lv Peng
朱伟 Zhu Wei
文：史珏丽 （Julie Segraves）于美国丹佛
注：史珏丽 （Julie Segraves），美国亚洲艺术协会主席，中国新工笔画研究专家，收藏家。本次在3画廊新工笔三个展特邀学术。
Regarded as China’s most conservative and time-consuming brush technique, the fine line or gongbimethod of painting combines fine black lines with multiple layers of both ink-shading and unmixed transparent and opaque colors.
Historically, the gongbi method has been used to depict figure, bird and flower subjects. During the Tang dynasty (618–907), fine line painting flourished, with well-known artists like Zhang Xuan (713–755) and Zhou Fang (750–800) depicting the splendors of court life.
By the Northern Song dynasty (960–1127), gongbiwas used extensively to illustrate birds and flowers as well. But by the Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), the Chinese literati began to exhibit a preference for xieyi, believing that this more spontaneous brush method was better suited to communicating the artist’s inner feelings, and the realism of the gongbimethod fell out of favor among many artists.
Although well-known Ming dynasty (1368–1644) artists like Tang Yin (1470-1523) and Qiu Ying (1494–1552) continued to include gongbi in their painting repertoire, it was not until the 18th century that the gongbi method received renewal of interest and attention, sparked by the arrival of Giuseppe Castiglione (1688–1766), a Jesuit missionary.
Castiglione had been charged with the task of creating a synthesis of European methods and traditional Chinese media and formats at the Imperial Painting Academy. Chinese gongbi court painters were soon perfecting a fusion of painting techniques, combining the linear perspective of Western-style realism with traditional Chinese brushwork.
Other excellent Qing dynasty (1644–1911) artists continued to use the gongbi techniques including Yuan Shouping (1633–1690) and Ren Xiong (1823–1857).
However, with the fall of the Qing dynasty and the demise of the traditional patronage system and the Imperial Painting Academy, many Chinese gongbi and xieyi artists were forced to pursue new avenues of income and modernize their painting techniques. Some artists looked to Japan and the West for new inspiration and income. Other artists living in Shanghai turned to commerce, combining their gongbi skills with Western techniques to create commercial pieces for the popular calendar prints, Yuefenpai.
With the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, and the government’s fondness of Socialist Realistic oil painting, the popularity of the gongbi technique declined even further.
After the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), artists began exploring a host of Western art, media, techniques and principles, believing that the practice of gongbi painting was simply too old fashioned and too demanding, and that the gongbi genre needed to be relegated to China’s past.
Yet, in the early1990s, a new generation of young, traditionally trained ink artists emerged to revitalize the gongbi tradition by mixing the centuries-old techniques with their own. These new gongbi paintings reflect the artists’ personal concerns, as well as the changing Chinese society in which they live, making the work by the three exhibit artists all the more surprising and compelling.
The year 1988 was pivotal for the gongbiartist Jin Sha for two reasons: he became fascinated with Renaissance art, which would influence his creative process for many years to come, and he was accepted into the art degree program at the prestigious Central Academy of Fine Art.
His attraction to the Renaissance and its art is based on the various significant traits which Renaissance Europe and contemporary China share: healthy economies and the ensuing prosperity of many of their citizens, fast paced social and cultural changes, the swift rise of the super rich, and the subsequent emergence of culture built upon consumption, greed and corruption.
The exhibit paintings all showcase the artist’s flawless signature style: a perfection of realistic painting techniques of linear perspective, as well as three- dimensional modeling often found in Renaissance oil and tempera painting. However, Jin Sha has achieved this effect by using ink and watercolorgongbi brushwork on silk to create his masterpieces.
In this exhibit Jin Sha has used the work of four 15thcentury Renaissance artists, Sandro Botticelli, Leonardo Da Vinci, Robert Campin and Alesso Baldovinetti, as artistic muses. Four of these paintings are devoted to the topic of the Annunciation orMessage, the famous biblical story of the Archangel Gabriel revealing to the Virgin Mary the impending birth of her son Jesus. The fifth painting illustrates Mary with baby Jesus.
However, the themes of Jin’s paintings themes collide and contrast with those of the Renaissance masterpieces, and he has selected to focus on the veracity of the Immaculate Conception, the contemporary problem of infertility, and issues surrounding artificial insemination in his art.
Two of Jin’s paintings have been patterned after Sandro Botticelli’s two Annunciationtempera on wood paintings. Jin’s painting, Salute to the Masters: Conversation with Sandro Botticelli,and the 1489 Botticelli Annunciationfeature the Virgin Marystanding as the Archangel Gabriel reverently kneels before her. Indeed, both Botticelli and Jin have adhered to the traditional Western art pyramidal format, apparent in the converging lines defining the placement of both Gabriel and Mary. Gabriel’s shadow is on the floor, a bookstand positioned to the right of Mary, and the white lilies held by Gabriel representing the purity of the Virgin, are illustrated in both paintings. Mary and Gabriel are placed against an extraordinary landscape vista visible through the open doors behind them. But Jin Sha has eliminated the central tree found in the Botticelli original, and has transformed the idyllic landscape into a vision of war, employing muted grey tones to depict present-day jets flying over smoldering mountains and destroyed buildings. Between the figures Jin has also included two enticements, painting an apple of temptation suspended in the air, and a bag of money featured on the floor.
Although the original Botticelli bodies are three-dimensionally modeled images, Jin Sha has ingeniously eliminated the physical forms of both subjects altogether, leaving only their empty garments and the viewers to contemplate the true meaning of Jin’s work.
Jin has also used Botticelli’s larger 1481 Annunciation painting as a model. In both the Jin and Botticelli paintings, a flying Gabriel is depicted with folded arms greeting Mary on the left side of the painting. Gabriel is shown in billowing garments and grasps a white lily. Mary kneels opposite Gabriel, bowing submissively after learning of her impending and unexpected pregnancy.
Both artistsare guided by their superb drawing skills and display penchants for presenting their figures with precise poses. Both compositions also feature ornate interiors, including intricately carved stone columns, inset marble floors and each artist has place his figures against a luscious landscape scene viewed through an open doorway. However, Jin has added two polluting mountains to his serene scenery setting.
Jin has also ingeniously eliminated the physical forms of his three-dimensionally modeled subjects’ shapes altogether, undercutting the message of the Immaculate Conception that both figures represent. More importantly Jin has addressedcontemporary infertility issues directly in Annunciation 2 by placing Mary’s womb on an elaborately carved bed to the right, seemingly to actually question both the actuality of Christianity’s Immaculate Conception while addressing the contemporary problems of infertility.
Jin has used Leonardo da Vinci ‘s legendaryAnnunciationas a guide for his two-part work,Salute to the Masters: Conversation with Leonardo Da Vinci. In both artists’ versionsGabriel is depicted with stylized wings and lavish clothing, while holding a lily. He knees in front of the figure ofMary, interrupting her as she reads the bible. In Leonardo’ s work, Maryhas a shocked look, raising her hand in disbelief and appearing to actually cringe upon hearing the alarming news of her mysterious pregnancy. Both paintings include an intricately carved stone table between the figures. Leonardo has placed his subjects in an open landscape scene with abundant trees in the background and numerous small blooming flowers in the foreground surrounding Gabriel. In contrast, Jin has exchanged Leonardo’s grass ground for marble flooring, has reduced the number of trees in the distance, and has slashed two of the remaining shrubs into halves, featuring empty spaces between the top and bottom portions. Although Jin has kept the clothing and the poses of both figures featured in the Leonardo original, he has eliminated the actual bodies of both the Archangel and the Virgin Mary, altering the meaning of the original work. In addition, Jin has created a second smaller painting to accompany this larger work, which shows a reduced image of Gabriel who appears to raise his hand against the offered apple of temptation.
Jin was attracted to the home interiors featured in the Annunciation Triptych by 15thcentury Flemish artistRobert Campin. Indeed, Campin’s work showcases a fascination with even the smallest interior details, which he has meticulously painted to replicate a late 15thcentury Flemish home. Jin has focused on the center panel of the triptych as his painting guide, and his work, too, features minutely detailed gongbi interior elements, creating a typical comfortable home similar to Campin’s original.
In the back of the room, both artists’ works include a three -arch carved stone niche, a rack with a towel, and a wooden window frame inset with a family crest at its top, and several patterned wooden shutters positioned ajar, opening to a view of sky and clouds beyond. Both artists’ paintings include a coffered ceiling above, a wood planked floor below, and to the right a fireplace with a fire screen, among other interior details. Against this room interior, Mary is illustrated, reading a bible as she reclines against a wooden bench.
In both paintings, angels with halos appear to inform Mary of her inexplicable conception. However, Jin has replaced Campin’s winged Gabriel, featured in Flemish attire, with an unknown winged woman angel wearing a traditional Ming dynasty informal robe accessorized with a Chinese brocade patterned sash. Jin has also eliminated Campin’s six-sided table, which holds a vase with flowers, but has kept the open book and bag on which it rests. While the stone niche in Campin’s painting includes a hanging vessel filled with water, which symbolizes Mary as a vessel for the baby Jesus, Jin has eliminated this symbolic water pot entirely.
Jin has selected one of his own artistic conventions, dividing his composition down the middle, to reveal a mirror image of the room as well as the angel on the left side of the painting. Jin has added an upper window with beams of bright light shinning on both of the side representations of Mary. But on the left mirror painting side, both the body and clothing of Mary have been discarded altogether, questioning the prospect of the miraculous birth of Jesus.
Careful modeling of form, the accurate depiction of light, and a contribution to 15th century Florentine landscape painting are characteristic of Alesso Baldovinetti work. All these elements are present in Baldovinetti’s painting Madonna and Child,and served to inspire Jin. In the original painting, a sitting, praying Mary is lovingly gazing down at the baby Jesus, who appears to be offering her his white garment sash of purity while lounging on a red pillow. Both are positioned before a luscious landscape with a river scene that realistically recedes into the background.
Jin has not only eliminated certain elements of the original painting, he has added features that have changed the painting’s meaning entirely. Now a bodiless Madonna appears to be engrossed in holding an apple of temptation rather than praying. The baby Jesus has been replaced with an open book, whose pages also feature apples of temptation. While baby Jesus’ white sash remains, it threads through his discarded halo and ties the apple symbols of temptation and greed from the printed page to an actual person, suggesting that even virtuous women often struggle against temptation and corruption.
Lu Peng emerged onto the fledgling Chinese contemporary art scene in the early 1990s with dynamic paintings that mirrored the restructuring of Chinese society, culture and traditions in the face of Westernization and globalization.
Born in 1967, Lu graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1991 from Capital Normal University, followed by a Ph.D. from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in 2003. Faced with an ambiguous and unclear journey through the shifting cultural and political landscape of contemporary China, Lu uses exceptional gongbi painting skills, combining them with his admiration for Chinese tradition and culture, to skillfully document distinctive reflections of his complex and unpredictable country.
Throughout his artistic career, Lu has also been inspired by Renaissance art, and Party,his powerful exhibit painting, has been based on Leonardo Da Vinci’s 15thcentury painting, the Last Supper, commissioned by the Duke of Milan. Although Leonardo used tempera oil on dried plaster for his fresco painting, at the time considered an unorthodox mixed media, Lu has opted for the tradional Chinese painting materials of ink and watercolor on four large expanses of Chinese paper to carefully create his own unique masterpiece showcasing his exceptional fine line gongbibrushwork.
Lu, like Leonardo, balances the perspective of his painting with the vanishing point behind his central figure. Lu has exchanged Leonardo’s coffered ceiling for one with black and white checkered-board patterns. In both long horizontal works, the painted ceilings above and covered tables below provide symmetry and proportion. Lu has substituted the receding painted panels flanking Leonardo’s central scene with two open side curtains that act as borders on the principal images on his painted stage.
Both paintings reveal 12 supporting figures in various poses around a central character, and both artists have created unique individual portraits of each personage. But instead of using Leonard’s four figure groups of three apostles each, Lu presents six groups of two figures each.
Unlike Leonardo’s painted apostles who had special relationships with Jesus, each of Lu ‘s characters have accidental associations with the main figure as well as with each other, and their interactions are similar to those of unfamiliar people attending a friend’s party.
Lu has supplanted Leonardo’s Jesus with a young man wearing a white T-shirt who for the artist represents “everyman”. Lu’s painting light source comes from above the young man, who is placed against an opened window with a landscape scene backdrop, an element also found in Leonardo’s original piece. Everyman's hand gestures and robe covering the right arm are similar to those shown on Leonardo’s Jesus. Lu’s central figure is depicted viewing an untitled floating book. In fact in Lu’s Partypainting, all books are without titles, concealing their content and often blocking his figures’ faces, thereby obscuring their expressions and reaction to the texts.
Lu’s additional painted figures include a wide cast of seemingly unrelated characters. In front of Everyman, on the center of the table is a small sculpture of a Chinese artist, wearing traditional Chinese garb and hairstyle, as well as Western angel wings, holding a rolled scroll painting.
A young man standing on the far left side of the painted table is shown in 20thcentury Republic of China garb and appears surprised as he holds a lamp of insight over an open book and unfurled scroll painting. Behind him, a nude girl and a crane of long life confront a Chinese figure, dressed in a historical Chinese soldier’s uniform with Western angel wings, who holds a peach of immoratality.
A character wearing atop hat similar to the one worn by the popular anti-capitalist Western game figure Mr. Monopoly, holds a unidentified open white book, and he stands behind a contemporary painter grasping a brush and reading an untitled red volume. Both figures’ faces are concealed by their open books.
On the upper right side of the painting a white bird is featured flying among three groups of people. In Western religious paintings a flying white bird represents the Holy Spirit, thethird Person of the Trinity, which includes God, the Father and his Son, Jesus. Similar birds are often featured in Middle Ages religious paintings as asymbol to announce the Virgin Mary’s Immaculate Conception of Jesus.But in Lu’s painting the bird is simply a bird, with no announcement to offer and who is simply observing the painted scene.
The upper right corner includes a woman wearing a 20th century Chinese Qipaodress lounging in a swag of fabric, and her face is obscured by a Chinese fan painted with a landscape scene. The man below her, wearing a Chinese tunic, has angel wings and glasses, and he anxiously gestures for the partygoers’ attention. Below, a nude woman holding a flower is featured attempting to get the notice of Everyman, and she stands behind another party goer, sitting at the table wearing a Western bow tie and vest, and who appears hindered by dark glasses in his attempt to view and appreciate the unfurled Chinese landscape scroll painting he is holding.
At the right table end are a pair of young men, one wearing Western clothing and angel wings, and the other sporting traditional 20thcentury Chinese dress. Both are featured enjoying wine while absorbed in reading their books.
Lu’s entire painted tableau is set in a garden scene, and the tabletop is punctuated with flowers in a vase and scattered on its surface, along with several bonsai plants that are positioned on the table’s left side. For Lu, flowers symbolize life, celebration, elegance, and warmth.The Partybanquet has abundant food and wine for all participants to enjoy. Indeed Lu believes that people sharing food and wine symbolize the hope and faith in family and enduring friendships.
In Lu’s Party,strange interactions do occur among the figures on his painting surface. Bodies areintertwined and artistic elements are entangled, leaving Lu’s viewers to contemplatetheir own interpretation of his painting andthe place of both contemporary Western culture and traditional Chinese culture in China’s new and volatile society.
In a pair of exhibit paintings, Spring Mountain Reading Five and Six, Lu has used artistic essentials from both Western and Chinese art. Spring Mountain Painting Reading Sixfeatures a young girl leaning over a table with her elbows resting on a Chinese landscape hanging scroll painting patterned after Yuan dynasty Chinese artist Wang Meng’s painting of the same title. The girl is engrosses in reading her book, also entitled Spring Mountain, and writing her thoughts and comments onto a tablet. Lu has placed the young woman against a Western check-board patterned floor, and a cluster of shrubs is illustrated behind her. Painted rays of insight shower the girl from the right painting side, beyond a crane scrutinizes the scene, and a random open book is illustrated, seemingly floating in air. Throughout the painting a thin black plant vine line meanders through the various details, to connect the disparate painting elements.
The painting’s companion piece, Spring Mountain Reading Five,features a young man, wearing a Chinese tunic and angel wings who is precariously balanced on one foot on a tabletop replete with a Western quill pen in a Chinese painted porcelain ink container, a leftover plate of food, a half glass of wine, and a book entitled Spring Mountain Reading. Beams of knowledge also cascade over the figure as he is absorbed in an untitled book in one hand, while holding an unfurled piece of Chinese painting paper in the other. Several other untitled open books float to the right of the figure, as does a Chinese landscape painting patterned after Yuan dynasty artist Wang Meng, which is featured on a traditional Chinese scroll mounting. The entire scene is set against a Renaissance style landscape, complete with rolling clouds.
In both paintings Lu’s theme can be traced to traditional China, but Lu’s style is uniquely his own, combining the brushwork influences of Chinese past painting masters with contemporary elements to explore his subjects quest for knowledge and understanding during the turbulent times in China today.
Although Lu’s art typically features elements of both tradional Chinese art and Western art, Lu has been inspired by Southern Song dynasty artist Xia Gui’s landscape painting Xishan Qingyuan Tufor his own exhibit painting series with the same title. However, Lu has used the Ming dynasty gongbi artist Qiu Ying’s blue- green color scheme as well. The results are exceptional landscape paintings, owing much to past Chinese painting masters, but Lu has ingeniously reinterpreted these celebrated practitioners’ individual techniques to create completely contemporary landscape visions of today.
The son of a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) doctor, Zhu Wei was born in Beijing on the eve of the Cultural Revolution. His parents hoped that he too would enter the medical profession. However, Zhu had other ideas, and he enlisted in the PLA at the age of sixteen. He then began a course of study at the Art College of the PLA, where he excelled in creating propaganda art and posters. After graduating in 1989, Zhu attended the China Painting Academy and the Beijing Film Academy, where he graduated in 1993. Despite his disparate academic art training, Zhu has remained a diligent student of traditional Chinese art, especially the challenging technique of gongbipainting for which he is acclaimed.
The early 1990s was a particularly volatile time for artists in China. Like many of his colleagues, Zhu chose not to be affiliated with any government institution or art academy. While many of his fellow artists did turn to oil painting or acrylic on canvas, the preferred media of the Western art market, Zhu chose to develop his signature gongbi painting style,reshaping, transforming and transcending this centuries old painting technique by employing both classical and ingenious new painting fundamentals to achieve his artistic statements on China’s society and politics. With his formable painting skills, Zhu has the unique ability to create work that initially appears deceptively simple, even whimsical, yet many of his more than 1000 paintings are, in fact, powerful political portraits of PLA soldiers, Party cadres and ordinary citizens, and their life in China today
One of Zhu’s earliest gongbipaintings featured in the exhibit is China Diary Number 19, created in 1998. Initially Zhu has selected a heavy sheet of Xuan painting paper, creating interesting hollows and indentations, before painting the paper ground with a flaxen color. The work features a reclining party official lost in slumber on a comfortable pillow and covered by a blanket to guard against drafts. The party bureaucrat has all of the physical attributes typically found in Zhu’s painted political parodies: large head, hands, feet, and nose, but closed unseeing eyes and small unhearing ears. Zhu believes that most CCP representatives glean little practical information from these gatherings and that many attendees simply sleep their way through the wearisome assemblies. Although Zhu’s depiction of this political cadre is satirical, it also appears to be accurate, illustrating a passive party person who has few dreams of how to make the past serve the present in contemporary China.
Spring Equinox Number 11 was painted in 2007 and illustrates one of Zhu’s contemporary China social landscapes.Zhu has painted a yellow-colored surface with six floating egg-shaped figures seemingly not tethered to the ground, similar to Western roly-poly toys that tend to right themselves when pushed over. Indeed, some Chinese folk artists craft similar hollow clay shapes to resemble plump, dimwitted bureaucrats, thereby mocking the officials’ incompetence and ineffectiveness.
Zhu’s six figures all appear to be isolated in their spring outings and all are featured with miniature feet turned inward and with hands shoved into their padded jacket pockets. Sporting wind-swept hair, all figures seem to lack actual personalities. Several have indistinct facial features, while the remaining figures’ faces register dejection or indifference. Indeed, Zhu’s weathered and distressed paper surface figure details are achieved by the artist through repeated immersions into water and subsequent crunching of his strong, Xuan paper. The painted people are flanked on both sides by several of the artist’s seals in clerical script, with one featuring “www” but missing the actual Internet address. Peach blossoms punctuate the left painting side and a peach with leaves is featured on the right painting side, both considered symbols not only for spring and immortality, but also forlove and romance. Still, passion seems elusive for thefigures featured in this work, and all their dreams and desires for love and affection appear to have gone unanswered.
Zhu has repeatedly used overlapping red curtains as a persistent art element for many of his Ink and Wash Research Lecture Seriespaintings, presenting his viewers not only with a painted abstract backdrop, but one that is also red, a color full of symbolism in traditional and contemporary China, synonymous with both happiness and the communist ideology. In one painting the red curtains offer a background for Zhu’s own political caricature for the average Chinese citizen, a sheep - a tamedanimal famous for being timid, easily led, and stupid. Zhu’s somber sheep peers piercingly through the artist’s black painted haze, which further hinders both the animal’s eyesight and insight.
AnotherInk and Wash Research Lectures Seriespainting focuses on an unlikely subject - a foot- against the red curtained backdrop. It is not known if Zhu actually drew upon the art of Andy Warhol, the leading figure in Western Pop Art, for his theme. Warhol recruited friends, lovers, collectors, and celebrities alike, using their feet as a major subject in his own whimsical art, which was tied to his personal quest of exposing the triviality of the United States’ consumer culture. But unlike Warhol, it is not apparent if Zhu’s single painted foot is simply just a foot, or if it represents the artist’s personal statement on contemporary China’s pursuit of its own burgeoning consumer culture.
In two recent Ink and Wash Research Lecturespaintings Zhu features one simple, red, hanging curtain and he has joined this art element with two unassuming images. In one work, a white scarf is draped on the left red curtain side. White scarves have special meaning in various cultures. In China, female opera figures use them when performing, and in Tibet white scarves are presented as gifts and are used for special offerings. In traditional China the white color was viewed both as a sign of purity and also as a symbol for death. But in this painting, the color white and the scarf itself are purely art elements, without any elusive connotation. Indeed, the artist is simply playing with forms, art elements, and the materials that he has used on his painting surface. In the other Ink and Wash Research Lecturespainting, an indistinct, abstract form is featured on the left red curtain side. Zhu has painted over both images with a murky black wash, obscuring the art elements and creating a feeling of mystery and unease.
In the final Ink and Wash Research Lecture Series exhibit painting, Zhu explores the relationship between history and contemporary culture by creating a political parody of a sheep, who like a Chinese citizen, is typically meek and easily led. Zhu has exchanged his distinctive and exclusive Xuan paper for common, unexceptional newsprint as his painting surface, perhaps hinting that the government’s control over everyday media alters its citizen’s perception of daily news and life in contemporary China.
This is one of twelve newsprint paintings in the series, and all reveal a blurred image of a central figure with indistinct features in front of a red curtain backdrop. On this painting, the artist has applied layers of mustard-color pigments cover both figure and flag, obscuring the details of both. The artist then further distresses the painting surface, distorting the actual images of both art elements while making his statement on the Communist party’s unrealistic socialist society.
Julie Segraves in Denver, USA