Chinese painter Zhang Wang combines ancient Chinese art with famous overseas film and cartoon characters

By Huang Tingting Source:Global Times Published: 2017/1/12 14:03:39

Chinese painter combines Chinese art with overseas film and cartoon characters


The Joker is combined with a pottery figurine from the Eastern Han Dynasty (Photo: IC) in a painting from Chinese artist Zhang WangInset: A Zhang Wang painting combining a Gundam mech with the Chinese Door Gods Photos: Courtesy of  Zhang Wang

A Zhang Wang painting combining a Gundam mech with the Chinese Door Gods Photo: Courtesy of Zhang Wang

The Joker is combined with a pottery figurine from the Eastern Han Dynasty (Photo: IC) in a painting from Chinese artist Zhang WangInset: A Zhang Wang painting combining a Gundam mech with the Chinese Door Gods Photos: Courtesy of  Zhang Wang

The Joker is combined with a pottery figurine from the Eastern Han Dynasty (Photo: IC) in a painting from Chinese artist Zhang Wang Photo: Courtesy of Zhang Wang

The Joker is combined with a pottery figurine from the Eastern Han Dynasty (Photo: IC) in a painting from Chinese artist Zhang WangInset: A Zhang Wang painting combining a Gundam mech with the Chinese Door Gods Photos: Courtesy of  Zhang Wang

The Joker is combined with a pottery figurine from the Eastern Han Dynasty (Photo: IC) in a painting from Chinese artist Zhang Wang Photo: Courtesy of Zhang Wang

Batman and Superman portrayed as fierce Terracotta Warriors? While such a combination may seem a bit random to some, they are a perfect fit in the eyes of Chinese painter Zhang Wang.

In his digital paintings, Batman and Superman, though still retaining certain recognizable characteristics such as a black costume or red cape, are transformed - they now wear armor and boots worn by soldiers during the Qin Dynasty (221BC-206BC). In another painting, a Stormtrooper from the Star Wars franchise is turned into a Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) soldier holding a decorated bow and dressed in a white helmet and armor belonging to the White Banner - one of the Qing Dynasty's eight aristocratic clans.

These are just a few of the works in Zhang's latest digital painting series that combines art from ancient China, such as generals from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and even excavated pottery figurines from the Han Dynasty (206BC-AD220), with well-known fictional characters from overseas, such as Superman from the US and Gundam from Japan.

While his style is strictly traditional, his methods are a bit more futuristic. Instead of painting on traditional Xuan rice paper with brush and ink, classic traditional tools still used by many artists today, Zhang created most of his art on his iPad, along with the help of the photo-editing software Photoshop.

New medium



The 40-year-old artist spent seven years studying Chinese art at Nankai University starting from 1995. He was one of the first artists at his school who embraced graphic tablets to create traditional Chinese-style paintings.

"My teachers at the school didn't object to the practice and even found it interesting," Zhang, now an associate professor for art design at Nankai University, said during an interview on January 2.

When asked if there were any differences aesthetically or visually between hand-drawn and digital Chinese paintings, Zhang pointed to a framed painting hanging on the wall and asked, "Guess, was that made by hand or on a computer?"

Even a closer examination couldn't help answer Zhang's question.

According to Zhang, the painting was first created in Photoshop using digital brushes meant to imitate oil painting, then printed out on Xuan paper to give it that authentic feel.

"I changed the parameters of the oil painting brushes in Photoshop to reinvent the water colors used in Chinese paintings," he noted.

According to Zhang, the change from real brushes to digital ones was a natural progression similar to how ancient peoples moved from drawing on cave walls to painting on paper.

Zhang created his first digital Chinese painting in 2002, which later became the prototype for his "From East to West" series. The series features 20 paintings, 10 of which were made in Photoshop, and the others first drafted on iPad and lined and colored using Photoshop.

Finding the right fit



Growing up in Tianjin during the 1980s, Zhang was greatly influenced by the traditional Chinese culture found in the very popular picture-story books of the time and the Chinese New Year paintings hung on doors in his neighborhood. However, the glimpse of Western culture that was coming into China at the time also left a lasting impression on him as well.

"When I saw Superman for the first time on screen, I was shocked. The man could actually fly! And not in the way the Monkey King flew in the 1986 TV series Journey to the West, which looked kind of fake," Zhang recalled.

"Since then, I dreamed of putting Superman into my art one day," he said.

"And I was looking for a design that could naturally combine this superhero with something I was familiar with."

Eventually Zhang came up with the idea to "dress" Superman in the armor of a Qin Dynasty soldier. The armor of the Terracotta Warriors also featured a special design between the belly and thigh, which clicked with Superman's famous red undies. Zhang revised the "S" on Superman's chest into a decoration featuring a dragon pattern that, according to Zhang, "is an ancient pattern used in the Chu-Han culture" during the Qin and Han dynasties.

Similar Chinese designs are seen in other paintings. The sword that the White Banner Stormtrooper wears "is totally a Qing sword, as it has a braid tied to the hilt." Meanwhile, the leather accessories worn by a Jedi from Star Wars are replaced with ones made from straw and decorated with symbols that show the warrior is a member of the Red Flower Society (a fictional martial arts group that appears in the works of Chinese martial arts novelist Louis Cha), which gives the feel that he is "an ancient Chinese swordsman from the grass roots."

The clothing his figures wear is only part of the combination of East and West, a character's expressions and poses matter as well. For his adaptation of the Joker from the Batman comics, Zhang used a pottery figurine of a singer from the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220) since "the similar postures and weird smiles that they both have conveys a feeling of craziness," Zhang explained.

Even though the combinations of colors used on these figures may look familiar, Zhang pointed out that they are different. He said that if you take a closer look at the colors, they are "totally Chinese."

With this series finished, Zhang wants to continue exploring this direction and hopes his work can introduce Chinese culture overseas.

"Chinese painters often seek to differentiate themselves from their predecessors," Zhang said. "I'm no different, it's just that my teachers chose to follow an Eastern path while I chose a more Western one."


Newspaper headline: 'From East to West'


Posted in: ART,COMICS

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