Chinese artist Feng Dazhong combines elaborate and impressionistic styles, tradition and innovation in his landscape and bird-and-flower paintings

By Yin Shuangzi Source:Global Times Published: 2017/9/12 17:53:39

The pursuit of elaborate and impressionistic styles by professional and amateur painters is an interesting topic in the history of Chinese painting. Fang Yizhi, a philosopher in the late Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and early Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), made a brilliant comment on this: "The painter who practices the elaborate style is confined by the technique itself; the painter who practices the impressionistic style is confined by the unlimited space." The elaborate style tends to be stiff and rigid while the impressionistic style tends to be vague and general. Until now, it is still an insurmountable bottleneck for many Chinese painters.

Feng Dazhong. Photo: Courtesy of Feng Dazhong

Chinese painter Feng Dazhong's artistic exploration during recent years can be considered as a Chinese painter's solution to this historic problem. His artistic ideal and pursuit focus on the basic aesthetics and brushstrokes in Chinese painting. He regards the elegance in traditional Chinese painting and sincerity and spontaneity in literati painting as his artistic pursuit. In recent years, Feng has conveyed his aesthetic ideal of combining elaborate and impressionistic styles, tradition and innovation in his landscape and bird-and-flower paintings.

Feng Dazhong. Photo: Courtesy of Feng Dazhong

Feng adopts the strategy of "one hand towards tradition, the other towards life," searches for innovation on the basis of tradition and expands his brushstrokes on the basis of sketches. For the past decade, the Chinese painting market has been saturated and there have been a lot of brush associations and painting works, but in terms of artistic quality and innovation, there has been little progress.

After experiencing the untimely loss of relatives, Feng deepens his understanding of society and life. In his recent works, bird-and-flower paintings convey the harmony between life in nature and landscape paintings convey the clear and bright state in the world. If you say that Feng's poetic works show concern for personal feelings before 2005, then his works after 2005 add more sense of history and show concern for the origin of life. They are simple and natural, expressing a vast and lofty eternity.

Refreshing Rain Photo: Courtesy of Feng Dazhong

Feng thinks if a painter wants to find new things out from a very old subject he shall learn from tradition and life. This is the ultimate means and the absolute principle. Only by improving one's knowledge and aesthetic tastes can one paint these old subjects. These subjects cannot be conveyed through mere splashing of brushstrokes but according to inner thoughts. The painter must first have this quality and knowledge then he can convey this artistic conception.

The road chosen by Feng is a traditional and innovative one. Throughout Chinese history, we can see innovations in different historical periods but every literary revolution is characterized by the return to the ancients such as Han Yu's ancient literature movement. However, the purpose of recalling tradition is not to duplicate or repeat ancient masters' arts. In Feng's paintings, he not only emphasizes the modernity and originality of paintings but also shows concern for the culture itself and hopes Chinese painting can move to a higher and deeper level.

Feng studies ancient paintings in his studios and often copies an ancient painting dozens of times. After copying Bada Shanren's works repeatedly, Feng knows Bada Shanren's concise and compact use of brushstrokes and simple and elegant ink usage. This directly influences his mood in painting and makes him pay more attention to the division of black and white and the pursuit of spiritual states.

As Feng said, "I study these masters' works not to make my works like them, but to transform out of tradition. I learn from life not to simply imitate their works, but to read their works more. Different from copying Chinese painters, my main technique is to explore subjects from life."

Early Spring Photo: Courtesy of Feng Dazhong

In the big landscape painting such as Crystal Water, Frost Forest, Feng conducts innovative searches for paintings of streams in the mountains. He studies the ancient masters' paintings of streams. It is mainly an impressionistic style and is composed of outlining and the composition of different lines that express the stream-like signs. However, Feng pays more attention to the texture of water, its movement, rhythm and saturation caused by the change of the stream, and it makes us feel that our souls are soaked in the sunshine and stream. Feng integrates his feeling and understanding of objective scenes and things on the basis of tradition - such as dots and lines - the insertion of images and the blending of color and ink instead of painting with one set technique or format. The stream painted by Feng can be very abstract and concrete at the same time.

Awakening I (Joint Work) Photo: Courtesy of Feng Dazhong

According to Feng, if the picture you paint is not to convey the life felt by the painter then it is purely a game of ink. What he wants to convey is not the exquisite brushwork but real life and his own feelings. The relationship between man and nature is what Chinese art wants to convey, and the painter sets up the channel for dialogue between one's mind and nature. Feng's landscape painting does not pursue the extraordinary form but hides in the environment, and this is the so-called "unity of heaven and man," the core of Chinese traditional culture.

Summer Dreams Photo: Courtesy of Feng Dazhong

Feng has spent dozens of years expressing modern people's state of mind and understanding of nature by innovating Chinese painting. His works transcend the boundary of mountain and streams, birds and flowers and integrates them in many pictures. Meanwhile, he makes innovation on the basis of sketches, makes his paintings unlimited and free in terms of spatial structure and acquires the real modern sense without losing the elegance of traditional Chinese painting.

As for the expression of effects of light and volume in Chinese painting, some think it is against tradition, but Feng thinks it is an expansion and all the expression methods are in accordance with the scene and theme. He does not consider whether it is planar or spatial and what culture it originates from when he chooses his painting methods. What he pursues is the most suitable integrating point between painting and the painted subject. He thinks, as long as it can enrich the picture and reach the realm he pursues then it is a good one. Therefore Feng integrates and expands his artistic forms on the basis of tradition. Feng's artistic pursuit further confirms Chinese painting's developing progress in the 20th century and its innovative road on the basis of the study of tradition and painting from life.

Pine, High As The Mountain Photo: Courtesy of Feng Dazhong

Introduction to the artist:

Feng Dazhong was born in 1949 in Gai County in Liaoning Province. He has an art name called "Fuhu Caotang Zhuren" (the owner of the crouching tiger humble cottage). He is the representative of the 10th, 11th and 12th National People's Congress, director of China Hue Art Society, deputy director of Traditional Chinese Painting Art Committee under the China Artist Association and vice chairman of Chinese Painting Institute.

Feng has held exhibitions in many countries and regions including Beijing, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, France and Australia. His works have been exhibited in many national exhibitions and are awarded. Feng has published many art books of his works in many important presses in Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Japan, including Rongbaozhai, Yangliuqing and People's Fine Arts Publishing House. Feng is famous for painting tigers. His works give tigers unique charm.

The Lonely Between Heaven and Earth Photo: Courtesy of Feng Dazhong






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