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This web site republishes an article about the painting series "Red Soil" by Li Ping, written by Kuang Da, artist, art critic and the director of Beijing Eurasian Art Research Institute. The article was published in Contemporary Artists on April 25, 2005 (the 3rd edition) in a special column for Li Ping.
Publication by friendly permission of the author, Mr. Kuang Da. Copyright for the text is held by Mr. Kuang Da, publication for private use only.
"Chinese painting represented in the form of paintbrush and ink has been developed, enriched and perfected through more than one thousand years, forming its unique mentality of appreciation, complete process of appreciation and artistic outlook.
We may say that Chinese painting is formed with "the use of paintbrush" in sculpture and represented with "the use of ink" in color treatment. After Wang Wei, a famous painter in the Tang Dynasty, ink-wash painting became fashionable. This made the ink-wash painting flourishing in China.
On the development height of Chinese painting in the Song Dynasty, no matter the orderly and precise masterpieces or the easy and lively sketches were created in the form of ink wash. However, some strong colored paintings like Wang Ximeng's "The Landscape of the Vast Country" are also recognized as masterpieces. Therefore, it is unfair to say that Chinese painting pays attention to ink wash form but neglects the strong colored form. In fact, both forms are stressed in the representation of color.
Of many excellent painting works created in recent years, most are represented by both strong and light colors as the form of traditional realistic skill or in the form of enjoyable sense. This trend may be regarded as the necessity in painting development and probably related to the deep soul of the colorful modern society.
One set of Li Ping's paintings on "The Red Soil" are also representing a full vitality and rising spirit in the form of the ardency, the leap and emotion of colors. In his works, the clear and colorful contrast between the red soil and the green crops are coexistent with the jumbled layout of mountain rocks between the fields, giving people a genial feeling of the great nature. The colored blocks full of change and rhymes have produced a modern and music sense with their movement of different shapes.
It has firstly brought to us not only the colorful and artistic feeling but also the realistic atmosphere of the red soil, evidently so strong and fresh. For the last two decades, the so-called modern modality of Chinese paintings is just a release of wild psychology or the abstract psychology in the form of ink wash by paintbrush and ink, or nearly a copy of western modern painting in the form of ink wash. Those kinds of works cannot, however, represent the real modern modality of Chinese painting.
What on the earth is considered as the modern form of representation of the Chinese paintings and how can we make the Chinese paintings in possession of the modern quality? People with different wills have different points of view. From the viewpoint of a painting creator, I think the modern quality of painting is actually only an innovative creation in representation form that is different from traditional painting, representing the attention to the realistic subject matters or representing a new concept and thinking in artistic experiment. Thus any original creation in representation form of Chinese painting takes place only on the painters with self-consciousness and creative spirit.
In speaking of the Chinese painting, it is inevitably involved with "paintbrush and ink". In general speaking, the Chinese painting equals to artistic works created with paintbrush and ink, any artistic production without paintbrush and ink cannot be regarded as a Chinese painting. However, the concept of "paintbrush and ink" remains on the low level meaning of the traditional skills. Only with an open and academic heart to understand and treat with the function of "paintbrush and ink" in painting and representation, can we possess a wide space of creation.
Of all ages, what has restricted painters in producing masterpieces is neither the tradition, nor others but the painters themselves. From this set of Li Ping's paintings on The Red Soil, in face of the red soil never involved by artistic form, perhaps he did not have the thought to make his works reflect the shadow of tradition and to show out the existence of the routine paintbrush and ink remaining in his works, but paid all his attention to the red soil which he wanted to draw and with which he fell in the deepest and sincerest love.
This unique feeling of his is embodied cordially and genially in his works. In fact he was so absorbed in the creation that he ignored the conventional routine sense of "paintbrush and ink". Under such a state, Li Ping conducted his brushwork in the movement and stillness, in light and heavy colors and in the weak and strong strokes of paintbrush and ink. Viewing his works, we feel that although he also used the art of paintbrush and ink to control the aesthetic feeling, the modern quality is just embodied in the mastery of the paintbrush and ink.
The skills of "paintbrush and ink" need to be developed and invented. To understand and treat "the paintbrush and ink" with broad sense or narrow sense can be only determined by painters themselves.
(This article was published in the magazine "Contemporary Artists" on April 25, 2005 (the 3rd edition) in a special column for Li Ping)
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