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The Mongolian printmaking history is a very short one. It covers basically not more than the last 50 years. But in spite of its brief history great diversity combined with stunning quality have evolved. In this article Shan Dan, a leading artist from Inner Mongolia, gives us an introduction to the young history of Mongolian printmaking.
Text puplished by friendly permission of the author Shan Dan. Copyright (June 27, 2007) is held by Mrs. Shan Dan. Copyright for the images is held by the artists. Any publication without the prior approval of the copyright holders is prohibited.
Mongolians do not have a long history of printmaking in spite of the fact that they were the first people to create paper-money.
Traditional Mongolian art includes engravings or inlays of ornamental patterns or images of nature. They decorate chariots and horse equipment, as well as dresses, personal adornment and items of daily use.
Woodblock printmaking started with the development of modern society. About 50 years ago several young Mongolians, most of them living in Horqin grassland, started creating prints that glorified their hometown environment or were created for illustration purposes of periodicals. Up to now, several generations of painters and printmakers produced thousands of works that have been published in magazines and newspapers. These prints have often been shown at the regular Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region art exhibitions, at China art exhibitions as well as other print exhibitions since 1949.
Being stubborn but upright by nature, the Mongolian artists of Horqin-grassland favor the woodblock technique. In Tongliao City, a printmaking group, including more than 100 people, has developed between the 1970s and the 1980s. From 1983 to 1991, those artists held four print exhibitions in Beijing. They also published scores of catalogs and collected 2000 print works - Horqin grassland prints, Jirem children prints, and Horqin children prints. Today this small frontier city is famous and celebrated for its 20 printmakers, all members of China Artists Association.
In the following three sections, Shan Dan divides today's printmaking in Inner Mongolia into three different groups that distinguish from each otehr by style and subject.
The grassland print is endowed with carving lines and strength. The artists project their artistic conception and feelings into the woodcut creation. In the past, by the limitation of economic and regional conditions, Horqin prints mainly consist of colored woodcut and black-and-white wood engraving. Reduction colored woodcut and water-block printing were introduced for the first time at the end of the 1980s. A straightforward and unsophisticated style always catches the eyes.
Sayinzhang, founder of a print artists group, has specialized on woodblock printing. His most famous prints are "Red Cloud", "The Hillside with a White Horse", "The Horqin People" and "A Little Girl with Blue Robe". They are rich in poetic and artistic conception but they are small in size. They show strong color contrasts and ingenious compositions.
An Yumin favors to picture the nomadic life of people in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in an idyllic, kind of fairy-tale-style, neglecting the hardships of the lives of herdsmen. His prints are mainly black and white. He created various Mongolian figures, influenced by his experience from grassland life and his tender feelings for his hometown. His prints are realistic, based on solid sketches. He transforms the sketches with skill and ease. He shows a lot of pretty and vivid landscapes, formed by children playing with birds, horses, sheep, frogs, flowers, and the endless grassland in a breeze.
A black-white print, "Youlaiwuhui (Never Returning)" by Aotegen, portrays the intense and fierce scene of a pack of wolves being besieged by a flock of horses. It is based on a battle song full of male power. Wang Zuocai's print series "The Autumn Wind", "The Grassland Wind", "Iron Horse and Autumn Wind", and "Grassland" have participated in a lot of China print and fine arts exhibitions and were awarded two bronze prizes. He focuses on Horqin desert, where the wind brings both: energy and drought. His feelings for his homeland can be seen in the forceful and sharp woodcuts. But recently his style of engraving has become round and gentle as seen in the print series "Keeping Watch of the Hometown" and "The Spring of Desert".
The simple grassland landscape and historical nomadic life provides perfect material for print creation. Wang Zhong, a famous art critic, commented on Zhao Rigetu, an old printmaker:
"He has an ardent love for the life in this vivid world and he is full of passion for describing all those beautiful things he sees in this world that is everything but perfect." (Wang Zhong, The Fine Arts, 4/2007).
Being especially fond of printmaking, all his life Zhao Rigetu created wonderful woodblock prints like "The Symbol of Prosperity", "May of Horqin" and "Rainbow of Grassland". He also founded the Research Society of Ethnic Print, and held two print exhibitions in Beijing. And, last but not least, he supported several ethnic printmakers.
At the dusk of summer in grassland, drinking koumiss and puffing a pipe while strolling along the flock road of Hohhot, you bathe in a marvelous sunset in the western slope with golden grassland. At this moment, you certainly fall in love with this country, watching a rosy cloud on the western sky and the returning herds in the vast pastureland. All these moments affected Tian Hongtu for his artwork "New Circle". He is a very active printmaker, depicting varied and interesting scenes of daily-life. His prints "Hunting", "Morning", "Grassland", "Spare Time", "Gachada" and "Gadameilin" impress with a magnificent style and repeatedly attended China fine arts and print exhibitions and won several rewards. Like Tian Hongtu, many printmakers cherish the pastureland and devote their prints to it. So do Liu Baoping, Zhang Deshu, Geriletu, Zhao Weiguo, Tong Jingfeng, Bao Shide, Chen Geng and many more..
It is impossible to separate Mongolians from their horses. So it is natural that horses take an important part in the Mongolian spirituality, fairy tales and history. Artists do their best to portray their nationality on horseback led by the proud son of heaven, Genghis Khan, who unified different tribes of Mongolians. The vast grassland, where eagles soar under the endless sky, clouds, rain and rainbows are other important themes of these prints.
The printmaker Wuenqi earned good results in recent years with his works "Fragrant Grassland", "Chagansala", "The Sky", "The Hometown of Paradise" and "The Feeling of Sabei", that were chosen to participate in China fine arts exhibitions. He won several prices. It seems as if no place on earth can be vaster or more beautiful than the meadowland, and that nobody can be more valiant and generous than the Mongolians.
"The Dust of Wuzhumuqin" by Shao Chunguang and Ou Guangrui has acquired the bronze prize in the 13th China print exhibition. It impresses with its romantic, artistic language and warm-colors, that represent the appiness of the herdsmen life. The print "My Sun" by Chen Rong describes three vigorous Mongol men stretching their arms, singing heartily, praising nature. Jiafu's "Color Ribbon of Life" composes from a lyric serenade of broad horizon with a row of Leleche, lovers and floating clouds. Jie Rentai's "A Distance Source" and "A Stream in Spring" depicts vivid flocks of horses, sheep or calves from a high point of view and the typical nomad resting-settlement. Han Daiqin's "The Heart of Maiden" delineated the sun and the moon on the face of a beautiful Mongolian girl.
(Text published and edited by artelino with the friendly permission of Shan Dan.)
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