Merging a world of color and style
Chinese artist blends East and West
Published: Oct 26, 2014 05:13 PM Updated: Oct 26, 2014 07:59 PM

Basilica of Saint Mary of Health by Nie Weigu Photo: Courtesy of 798 Art Bridge Gallery

Chinese paintings may leave viewers with the impression that color doesn't play that important a role in the overall scheme of things, especially considering that most ink wash paintings only use black. However, this is not really the case, as many important artists who studied abroad such as Lin Fengmian, who studied in France in the 1920s, began incorporating Western painting techniques into their Chinese paintings years ago.

An example of this blending of Eastern and Western techniques can also be seen in the works of Nie Weigu, currently on display at the 798 Art Bridge Gallery in the 798 Art District in Beijing, as the artist follows Lin's example of using rich colors in his painted works.

"[Black} ink isn't always able to express my rich emotions at different times. That's something only color can do. So I decided to use the rich colors of Western paintings to express the impressionist styles you see in Eastern culture," Nie said, explaining his use of color.

The paintings at the gallery can be divided into two series, one depicting lotus ponds and the other Western architecture.

Thanks to the use of colors, Nie's lotus flowers are no longer dull and black, but capture the seasons and the artist's emotions at the time of painting.

His architecture series goes a step further in merging the painting styles of two cultures by portraying Western cathedrals, palaces and other cultural relics with a distinct Eastern style.

He Jiaying, vice chairman of the China Artists Association and a renowned painter himself, was deeply impressed by Nie's paintings last September as he was left wondering how the artist managed to paint such grand and splendid European churches and palaces on traditional xuan paper, a type of thin rice paper used for painting and calligraphy.

"We are so used to looking at Chinese paintings as inheritors of the past and so it seems natural that paintings on xuan paper must follow the rules of traditional Chinese painting. This is why we don't see so many colors in the works of Chinese painters; they are born to filter colors and try to portray a colorful world with ink wash," He explained what makes Nie's work stand out.

The exhibition will run until November 5.