CLP 98: 1987 “The Insides and Outsides of Recent Chinese Painting.” Lecture, Mills College, Oakland

“The Insides and Outsides of Recent Chinese Painting.”

Mills College Lecture 1987

Introduction. Title. Theme. Much written on inside and outside; haven't seen any serious attempt to illuminate relation. between. Will attempt this large and ambitious topic tonight. Subject becomes more interesting in recent years, as two parts of this bifurcated tradition draw closer. To oversimplify plan of my talk tonight: will show how tradition splits, 1949; each part splays or ravels; later, some coming together, more and more interweavings. Time to reconsider relationship. Another reason difficult before: political. In the interest of Chinese in Taiwan to argue that they were preserving China's cultural heritage, and allowing artistic freedom, and that no good art possible on mainland. Could argue so, while cut off. Ca. 1970? conference organized at College of Pacific, with late Chang Ta-ch'ien as central figure, on "future of Chinese painting." We were all supposed to say that future was among certain expatriates, Chinese who chose to live overseas, like Chang himself. I was put off by this, said: future of Ch. ptg. in China, where always has been. Hard to argue then; easier now. So I want to look tonight at how Chinese painting inside and outside China pulled apart; how two parts coming together now, like healing of schism. Don't mean this as metaphor for political situation; have no more idea than anybody else whether P.R.C. and Taiwan coming closer to reuniting in other ways.

Must say at outset that this will be highly incomplete account, and very personal view. Will look only at Chinese call guo hua, sometimes rendered "trad. ptg" but not necessarily that. Paying no attn. (except side-glances) to oil ptg, or artists outside academies working in what they take to be avant garde styles, imitating new trends in West, etc. I'm historian of Chinese art, interested in how that history continues into our time.

My colleague Peter Selz recently spent several months in China, came back having found only one artist to admire (Rauschenberg-like young man). What would please NY critics. I think there are other valid criteria for judging value in contemp. art, will show things tonight, and express admiration for them, which would make Peter, or Rosalind Kraus, shudder. Whether that's my problem or theirs you can judge for yourselves.

S. CCW/Cheng Shifa ptg. What's wrong with this picture? (explain) Not unprecedented, but-- I offer as kind of symbol of reconciliation of inside and outside; but could equally be symbol of what caused them to diverge in first place. Can be used to represent initial perception on divergence of inside and outside of Ch. ptg. (to use short terms).

S,S. Ptgs of C.C.Wang (1961), Cheng Shifa (1960), separately. "Pure" landscape, with a few simply-drawn houses at most, no figures, no narrative content; other: figural, with "human interest" element. (Leaving out bird and flower subjects for now; will introduce them briefly later.) Former, "pure landscape, makes up big part of "outside" Ch. ptg.; and strong pull toward abstraction, disappearance of recognizable figural subjects. Figure ptg. not much done by leading artists. Inside: concerned with human themes, much of the time; even when subject seems to be landscape; figure ptg remains strong, "pure" landscape relatively rare, abstract or non-objective art impossible, at least until recently.

So, for a long time, real divergence; neither side had much understanding or respect for other. When exhib. w. Cheng Shifa ptgs shown at our UAM in 1974, critics found his ptgs "sweet" or "sentimental" or characterized them derisively as "good greeting-card material." Failed utterly to see beyond their subject matter to their strengths, power of line and forms. More recently, C.C.Wang's old friend Xu Bangda, w. whom he was assoc. closely in 1930s-40s, as part of group of ptrs and connoisseurs in Shanghai, has said that he can't understand Wang's later ptgs. Misunderstandings, or lack of understanding, in both directions. Ptrs themselves can sometimes be more broad in their tolerances and tastes: it was C.C.WAng who first, in the early 1960s, told me that Cheng Shifa was an artist to watch, and showed me an album by him he'd bought; and Cheng told me, after seeing exhib. of American ptg from Boston M.F.A. in l982, that he especially admired ptgs of Franz Kline.But, for moment, let's accept these as contrary directions, follow them separately, beginning in 1950s and 60s, as brief background for consideration of more recent developments.

S,S. In Taiwan, some continuation of very conservative ptg styles, carried on by old, established artists such as Huang Chun-pi (teacher of Mme. Chiang) and P'u Hsin-yu, member of Manchu imperial family. LS by P'u on right dtd. 1948. To trace this strand in recent Ch ptg through followers in Taiwan would be kind of dead-end, I think, like this kind of ptg itself. But something of it survives, e.g. in ptg of Yü Ch'eng-yao, old self-taught artist, former soldier, military man, recently acclaimed and exhibited in Taiwan. LS ptgs, elaborate in composition, richly textured, large in scale.

S,S,. In PRC, not so easy to do "pure LS," or completely traditional LS; hard to demonstrate its relevance to new socialist society. Work by Ying Yen-p'ing, 1957, titled "The Lofty Mt. Bows Its Head, the River Yields to a Road." Trad. LS with additions that turn its trad. meaning upside down: instead of harmony of man & nature, nature being conquered and changed by man's works. Work of Mr. Wang Ch'ang-chieh, painter of exhibition now on view here, comparable in effect although quite different in subject: traditional landscape with Golden Gate Bridge in distance.

S,S. Ptg by Li Shih-ch'ing, 1958, titled "Moving Mts., Filling VAlleys"; Ptg by anon. worker, early 60s? "A New Peak Among the Mts." Interesting; obviously no future to this, dropped.

S,S. Mr. Wang Ch'ang-chieh can make this work only by obscuring Golden Gate Bridge until it could be mistaken for two watch-towers or pagodas: doesn't seem jarring intursion.

S,S. During 50s and early 60s, before Cultural Rev., a few artists, espec. older and established ones, could experiment with abstracting direction which C.R. would put an end to, denouncing it as "formalism" or "bourgeoise formalism." Here, Li K'o-jan (still with us; spent day with him last November), 1959 LS; ptg of banana palms and beautiful woman. Undated; early 60s? Concentration on linear patterns gives interest to painting somewhat apart from subject.

S,S. LS by Lin Fengmien, who studied in France and was inf. by post-Impres. ptg; filling of ptg surface,basically a new idea in Ch. ptg., somewhat affected, I think, by Western practice. LS by P'an T'ian-shou, interesting artist not much known outside China (works rare), ptd in 1959, very linear and flat, like color woodcut. He died in 1971, victim of persecution.

S,S. Many works by Cheng Shifa from early 60s--here, two ptgs of 1963--were also exploring, in highly sophisticated and accomplished ways, use of brushstrokes and lines that were not simply descriptive of objects portrayed, and that turned them into bold, simple forms, flattened forms, that resisted simple representational readings. These were ptgs shown in our 1974 exhibition, mentioned earlier; newspaper critics, with single exception, got no further than seeing pink cheeks of girls, said "yuk", and went off to write their put-downs. Actually, as they would have seen if they had got beyond superficial impressions, these are sensitive and highly original works, and suggested another direction that Chinese painting could have taken. But this, too, w as cut short by C.R. Ptgs in heavy ink, like Li K'o-jan's or some of Cheng Shifa's, called "black ptgs" by Jiang Qing, denounced as antithetical to upbeat expression she demanded in art.

S,S. Meanwhile, Western oil ptg, especially Russian, was having another, dif. effect on other artists, inspiring them in directions seen here: Socialist realism. Outside our subject; introduce them only to note how this affected ptg in traditional media.

S,S. From late 50s thru 60s into early 70s, great bulk of ptg produced in China was of this kind--politically inspired, propagandistic, in one way or another. Much of it done in trad. media, ink and colors on paper, so still sometimes considered guo hua. Ptg of Norman Bethune, Canadian doctor who accompanied 8th Route Army, died of infection while working at front lines. "Eight Women Hurling Themselves Into the River." Martyrs. Much ptg of this kind and period was meretricious and low-level, like magazine illustrations, as they were usually cahracterized. I admit unashamedly that I find some of it moving and fine, and believe it's our own inability to tolerate serious figure ptg that blinds us to its strengths; but that, too, is a different lecture.

S,S. MEanwhile, some of younger artists outside China, espec. in TAiwan, were using styles that might be characterized as Chinese versions of Abstract Expressionism. Sometimes vaguely suggestive of LS imagery. Fong Chung Ray, ptg from 1960s (undtd) on right, one by Liu Kuo-sung, dtd. 1962, on left. Both members of Fifth Moon Group, formed in Taiwan. Liu Kuo-sung was perhaps most important of group. One of a number of artists outside China who were, at that time, experimenting w. semi-random techniques--in Liu's case, free running of ink and color and pulling out fibers of paper for streaks of white. (We will see other, related tech. in works of Ch'en Ch'i-k'uan and C.C.WAng.)

S,S. So, here in extreme form is the "confrontation" (polarity) that two branches of Ch ptg, inside and outside, had reached by later 60s and early 70s. "A New Face at the Coal Mine," by a certain Yang Chih-kuang, 1972; and "Earthscape" by Liu Kuo-sung, 1968. Virtually any viewer inside PRC at that time would have found ptg. on right attractive and intelligible, and one on left unintelligible and objectionable. Practically any viewer outside PRC, on other hand, at least any viewer seriously involved with art, would have found one on right impossible to accept as good art, and one on left to be taken seriously, whether he liked it or not. Since we are outside, we are inclined to latter view, and inclined also to see this as question of absolute value, good art vs. bad; to feel, in other words, that we are right and they are wrong. We would also tend to argue that any good artist, if free to make the choice, would choose to paint like Liu and not like Yang. I'm not sure it's so simple, although I might choose another ptg than "New FAce at Coal Mine" to base my argument on.

In any case, two directions seemed quite unreconcilable; no common ground. Stated in extreme form: art without imagery vs. imagery without art. An equivalent in art, perhaps, of seemingly irreconcilable political differences; the Two Chinas in art.

And yet in the rest of my lecture I want to argue that the inside and outside currents of Ch ptg are coming together, in very interesting ways; and not simply because PRC artists now have more freedom and can paint like artists outside China. Not that simple at all. To show how this is happening, I will treat a series of artists, each of them briefly, greatly over-simplifying the nature and direction of their work, for which I apologize to them as a group in advance.

S. Good place to begin is with late Chang Ta-ch'ien, who had distinguished career as artist on mainland before he left in late 40s, first for Brazil, then for the U.S., finally for Taiwan, where he died several years ago.

S,S. His early LS (1932, 1934) firmly in Ch. tradition; loosely follow models such as Shih-t'ao. He also, of course, ptd figures, flower, etc., but I'm concerned now only with his LS.

S,S. Here is a LS w. figures by him, one of his finest works, in which large areas of ptg are amorphous patches of ink, given scale and form by limited areas of finer drawing. Undtd. ptg. Creates mood of mystery, a certain foreboding--very effective. Not a completely new idea--Shih-t'ao etc., and something comparable achieved in some works of Fu Pao-shih on mainland.

S,S. Later, depended more and more on splashed ink and color. His eyesight failing; fine drawing difficult for him. He could present this change, more or less forced on him, as new artistic direction, responding to his contacts w. new trends in Western art after he left China. Never, with him, entirely a move into abstraction; always kept hold on ptg as image, even when seems close to abstraction,

S. Comparison of another of his late paintings w. photograph of Huangshan peaks in mist reveals how much responsiveness to LS imagery in nature remains in his ptg. But photographer no doubt influenced by Chang Ta-ch'ien.

S,S. In 1983, took on what one magazine article called "his greatest challenge," huge ptg. of scenery of Mt. Lu, done for old friend who was restauranteur, for foyer of new hotel. Worked long and hard on it; said to have been responsible for his death, Be that as it may, shows him returning to more traditional;, representational style at very end.

S,S. Woman ptr, Tseng Yu-ho, now living in Honolulu, began by receiving very traditional training in Peking from old conservative ptr, P'u Hsueh-chai, cousin of last emperor. Later came to Hawaii with husband, began to move into abstraction, in ptgs w. strong linear patterns, or ptgs that exploited semi random effects of suffusing ink and fibrous paper.

S,S. As time went on, came to depend more and more on paper collage, applications of gold and silver foil, minimum of brush ptg to make these amorphous configurations suggestive of LS. Art historian would be inclined to see heavy borrowings from Jap. trad. in these, in use of materials, ways of composing; she denies this, says all has precedents in Ch. tradition. Well. S,S. Two recent works, photographed when I visited her last spring. Very sophisticated manipulations of materials, creasing of paper, webs of fiber on surface, combined w. minimal brush-ptg to suggest mysterious LS w. trees.

This exploitation of special qualities of paper, ink, colors, and of unorthodox ways of combining them, is a feature of much of most interesting recent ptg by Chinese artists outside China. Does it respond in some part to work of Paul Klee and others? perhaps.

S,S. Another who makes use of these techniques is Ch'en Ch'i-k'uan, China-born, trained at MIT as architect, disciple of I.M. Pei, now living and working in Taiwan. He sometimes plays with calligraphic abstraction in witty ways, as in this 1952 ptg titled "Football" --(Hope everyone sees joke--)

S,S. But more often, and more interestingly, he works w. semi-controlled, mottled effects of ink and color, produced by elaborate procedures of resist techniques, soaking colors from back of paper, etc., to produce such absorbing works as this, one of series done after visit to Venice around 1960, rep. St. Mark's Cathedral and square in front, with pigeons.

S,S. In his many LS, he likes to play on traditional Chinese compositional types, such as tall, narrow LS w. forms vertically disposed. Here, too, combines semi-random areas of mottled ink and colors w. finer drawing that makes us read these as rocks and cliffs: trees growing out from them, monkeys in trees. One can read ptgs as abstractions, from distance, or as busy, populated scenes from close-up.

S. One other younger artist from Taiwan is Hung Hsien or Margaret Hung. Born in Yangchow, moved to Taiwan while young, studied there w. P'u Hsin-yu, old conservative master who spent last years there, had many pupils. 1953 blue-and green LS by her; scarcely promising; just another performance in old manner.

S,S. Changed her style, becoming associated with Fifth Moon Group, taking direction more like that of Liu Kuo-sung etc.; into kinds of calligraphic abstraction. After she moved to U.S. with husband, spent time on Hornby Island near Vancouver, where she roamed seashore, and began to make its rocks and tidal pools into the materials of her painting.

Now, what I've been showing so far of ptg by overseas Chinese artists may seem only to affirm the seemingly irreconcilable divergence I remarked on earlier: moves into varieties of expressive abstraction. But what I want to stress is that these ptrs mostly keep some tenuous hold on representation by continuing to incorporate rather ambiguous references to LS and other imagery into the pictures. Tension between readings as abstract form and as pictures creates much of interest of ptg, providing complex, absorbing visual exper. for viewers. (I'm quite aware that representation vs. abstraction is a simplistic issue to place at the center of an artistic development these days; I'm using the terms for lack of better, but trying to show how recent Ch. ptrs deal with this issue in special Chinese ways, and that it's an issue that seems to concern them deeply, if I read their paintings and their own statements correctly.)

Now, following that same issue, I want to show how a few overseas artists--as well as others, if I had time to deal with them--are moving in opposite direction, from abstraction back into more overt and distinct imagery, espec. landscape imagery.

S,S. I begin with Liu Kuo-sung. We already saw his calligraphic abstractions of the 1960s. By the 70s, as seen here in work of 1976, he was adapting the free, vigorous brushstrokes of that manner to ptgs more clearly meant to be read as LS. One on right, 1975: reading as waterfall, jutting boulder, gorge and cliff reinforced by clear representation of rivulets of water running down further cliff; one on left, 1976, large boulder in FG treated w. highlights and shadows that evoke styles of Sung masters such as Li T'ang, supplying a massive, readable form around which other materials of the ptg arrange themselves as elements of LS.

S. Detail of rock. Again, this is nothing entirely new in itself; Ch ptrs had been playing on ambiguities of image vs. abstraction from beginnings of their art, neolithic ptd pottery. Liu's work of this kind distinguished by excellence of his technique, evocative power of his forms.

S,S. Liu's "Murmuring Peacefully in a Lonely Valley" and "Wintry Mts. Covered with Snow," both 1977. Titles alone would betray new intention of artist: not only to revert to clearly intentional representation of LS scenery, but of specific types of scenery: stream winding between heavily wooded shores, rocky crags with snow. One could place each of these beside some old Ch ptg of Sung or later period, and suggest that Liu was finding inspiration there; but I'm not trying, in this lecture, to identify precedents for certain features and trends in contemp,. Ch. ptg--did that in dif. lecture given in S.F. several years ago.

S,S. In 1986, Liu ptd long handscroll--trad. Chinese form he hadn't used before, to my knowledge--rep. "LS of Four SEasons"--LS, that is, that changes through four seasons within continuous composition. Not unknown device in China, again--Ming examples--also practiced by Muromachi-period ptrs in Japan, in handscrolls and screens. Early in scroll, spring scenery portrayed w. blossoming trees on mountainside, green fields in distance. Moving further, section with imposing mountains painted in ink with blue and green color; flowering trees in lower right, pine trees in distance at upper right, depicted in way not too different from traditional Chinese ptg.

S,S. Further on, where trees turn autumnal in color. Adopts Ch. convention by which distance of most of scenery from viewer clearly understood, with trees on lower edge for nearest element and glimpse of recesses of river for furthest. Space filled with light and mist--may recall Kung Hsien of 17th cent.

S,S. Ends w. imposing snowscape, representing winter. Culmination, perhaps, of Liu's reversion to fully representational style--not reversion for him, that is, but w/in whole tradition. Critic in Taiwan writing in 1970 catalog of exhib. of Liu Kuo-sung and four others, says: "We hold in contempt the rumor that abstract art is declining in the West. (Despairing statement of someone with finger in dike.) Style of artistic expression, abstract or non-abstract, depends upon the intrinsic need of the artist and faithfully reflects his aesthetic belief." Artists themselves, and some critics, always arguing for complete autonomy of artist, rejecting idea that they learn from each other, follow trends, etc.; art-historians continue to recognize correspondences in directions taken by artists that indicate they are quite responsive, like anyone else, to what they see and hear. This is one of our own polarities or divergences.

S,S. Another younger artist who made this move from abstraction to overt landscape imagery is Wang Wu-hsieh or Wucius Wong. I knew him first when he was student at Maryland Institute of Art in Baltimore in early 60s; I taught course in Ch. ptg there, and he was my teaching assistant. Perhaps I can claim some minor credit for making him look harder at certain kinds of early Chinese painting. At that time and for some years after he returned to Hong Kong, he was engaged in explorations of geometric abstraction, like ptg on right, titled "Connected Circles," done in Chinese ink on paper, dating from around 1966. But during 1970s, and in some ptgs even earlier, he was experimenting also with ways of using semi-abstract forms in configurations reminiscent of LS. HIs 1978 "Cloud Harmony" on left will make Ch. art historian think of Kung Hsien working in manner of Chu-jan; device of dividing composition into squares, with forms sometimes continuing and sometimes discontinuous across joins, could be seen as play on Chinese practice of creating multiple horizons within single picture, but probably inspired also by device used in 60s and 70s by some Occidental artists; makes picture, for me, a bit too New Yorky.

S,S. His "Purification #2," on right, evokes intentionally style of great 11th cent. master Fan K'uan; his "Aloof Peaks" of 1980 was painted after he had climbed Huangshan in that year, an experience that had a profound effect, he says, on his paintings. He himself writes that this is point at which he came "closest to the tradition," and that in the mid-70s he "suddenly felt the need of returning to the cultural roots of the Orient. That was the time I started my journey back into the Chinese tradition."

S. Painting of 1983, titled "Mountain Dream #2." I wish I could show you his most recent works, which I saw in exhib. at Meishuguan in Beijing last November. I talked with him there, and said that even after one has given proper due to the Chinese trad. and the Chinese terrain, Fan K'uan and Huangshan, something remains (even more in latest works than here) which for me evokes kind of painting known in European and American ptg of 18th and 19th centuries as "LS of the sublime." He agreed enthusiastically, saying that he had indeed become very interested in Western LS ptg of that kind lately. Strong sense of light and shade, grandeur of whole effect, congruent with European ptg of that kind; also reliance on suggestiveness of indistinct forms. Edmund Burke, writing in 1757 on the sublime in art, pointed out that "a judicious obscurity in some things contributes to the effect of the picture," because "dark, confused, uncertain images have a greater power on the fancy to form the grander passions than those which are more clear and determinate." Applies to much of best recent Ch ptg: strange correspondence over the centuries and across cultures. Chinese artist both inside and outside China during past decades, faced w. continuing problem of wanting to join "international mainstream" somehow w/o giving up Chinese heritage, have been looking for affinities between Western and Chinese art. Found one in 1950s-60s, as we have seen: Abstract Expressionism for West, calligraphy and rough-brush painting for China. This convergence was being exploited early e.g. by Zao Wouki, who moved to Paris in 1948 from being prof. in Acad. of Art in Hangzhou, and has been successful artist there. This worked very well for a while. More recently, as Western ptg moves back more into the figural, Ch. artists looking for other areas of affinity. One is in LS: Sung monumental LS in China, "LS of sublime" from 18th cent. in Europe. Later is not a trad. that has much following in West today; but Western audiences, like Chinese, still respond to it--still has its emotional impact. I've suggested in recent writings that some 17th cent. Chinese artists seem to have recognized affinities in similar way bet. Western LS (becoming known to them thru prints brought by Jesuits) and Sung-period monumental LS of their own tradition.

S. Now, want to turn briefly to ptr whose long career sums up all I've been talking about, ptr central to all of it, Wang Chi-ch'ien or C.C.Wang (One of two ptrs w. whom we began; to be distinguished from other artist named C.C.Wang, whose exhibition now here. Will come to him later.) Wang Chi-ch'ien born 1907 in Suchou, estab. as orthodox LS ptr in China before he came to U.S. in 1940s and settled in New York.

S,S. During 1950s, studied Western-style ptg in oils; here are two still-life pictures done by him in 1956 and 1959, seen here in public perhaps for first and last time. I got to know him quite well in 1953, when at Met. Mus. as fellowhsip student; was one of those who admonished him agst. continuing in this direction. But, even though ptgs hard to admire today, had great effect on his later work, espec. his use of color.

S,S. By later 1960s--these are 1969 and 1970--he was experimenting, in way related to works of Tseng Yu-ho, Ch'en Ch'i-k'uan and others--with semi-random effects of resist, applying ink with crumpled paper, etc. Impossible to establish priority for these ideas--artists themselves don't know--and not important anyway. Amorphous configurations suggestive of LS, forms of which he could enhance the readability as LS imagery by addition of indicators or clues.

S. As here, in another work of 1970, where a few touches of bluish color and a few simply-drawn roofs suggest clusters of trees and houses, and give scale and definition to the rest. A series of horizontal brushstrokes turns vertical streak into stone steps, suggesting ascent. Again, precedent in old trad. of i-p'in or "untrammeled" ptg in which artist splashed ink and colors onto ptg surface, or applied them in unorthodox ways w. pieces or rope or dried sugarcane or his hair, and then turned chance formations produce in this way into readable picture by addition of brush-drawing.

S,S. Gradually, in ptgs or 1970s and 80s, he relies less on random effects of patterns of ink impressed with crumpled paper and more on brush painting, and his LS become more easily readable, more spacious, more monumental. This is not, to be sure, necessarily an advance--I'm not arguing that representation is better--but it's the direction he's taking, by his own choice, and it seems to me a good one. Not simple unilinear development --still moves back and forth between amorphous and defined--but all-over movement, like that of other artists we've seen, is toward more spatially readable LS w. strong element of grandeur, whether it echoes Sung LS or European LS of sublime, or, as I would believe, both.

S,S. One interesting feature of some of his recent LS is heavy application of brilliant color, espec. in trees. Seen also in some recent LS ptgs by PRC artists, such as this one by Chang Pu, painted in 1981, around same time that C.C. Wang took up this technique. Source of both may be : S. in certain works by Chang Pu's teacher Li K'o-jan, painted during 19670s and early 70s, after his "black" LS had been denounced, and a more colorful and visually appealing style more or less imposed on him. But this is only a preliminary reading of relationship, perhaps wrong.

,S. Some of Wang Chi-ch'ien's most recent LS--one on right 1982, one on left 1986--bring us as close to successful recreation of Northern Sung monumental LS as anything painted in recent times. Not only that, of course--strongly original ptgs, in style reached through long personal evolution. And by no means can he be said to have "come full circle," since these ptgs are completely unlike orthodox-style ptgs w. which he began. For young ptr such as Wucius Wong to "return to his roots" out of earlier stage of abstraction is interesting; for seventy-year-old ptr to do this, with such power and originality, is even more impressive, and very moving.

Finally, I want to return to P.R.C. to look briefly at some developments in guo hua or so-called traditional ptg since the "second liberation" of 1977, which followed on death of Mao and the fall of Jiang Qing.

S,S. Figure ptg continues strong. Cheng Shifa, the leading figure specialist in China, has more or less dropped his fine-line manner of the early 60s, and paints a lot that can be dismissed as kitsch--he is under considerable pressure to produce his popular images in quantities--but also continues to stay well ahead of his many imitators in strong, moving ptgs such as this portrayal of the third-century poet and musicial Hsi K'ang playing his ch'in as he waits in shackles to be executed. This was in our 1981 exhibition in S.F.--my choice; such is the foreigners' discomfort w. figure ptg that he otherwise would have been rep. only by a LS and bird-and-flower ptg, quite uncharacteristic of his output.

S,S. I photographed this recent ptg of two deer, buck and doe, in his studio last November--just finished, not yet mounted. Indicates how far he can go in direction of brush-abstraction, and with what mastery he reconciles this with the rendering of organic form.

S,S. Some of older artists, such a Li K'o-jan, have gone back to painting much the same kind of thing they did before Cultural Revolution, rejecting altogether the ideological figure art of the 1960s and 70s. This is understandable enough. But some of best of younger artists, by contrast, more deeply affected by that kind of ptg, because they grew up with it, and are unwilling to throw it over altogether; more inclined to try to raise it to the level of good art and purge what is objectionable in it. Nieh Ou, young woman painter in Beijing Ptg Academy, continues to take scenes from lives of common people as her subject, but renders them in brushwork that is tender and unassertive but strong, endowing the people represented with these same characteristics.

S,S. Some of her works take us farther into another kind of brush-abstraction; this is a prevalent tendency among many of the younger guo hua artists in China, and one that narrows the distance between them and the overseas Chinese painters, I think. S,S. Tseng Shan-ch'ing, whose work of ca. 1982 was in our exhibition, seems to be taking that direction; his painting on the left, done this year, was reproduced on the cover of an exhibition announcement he sent me recently.S,S. Chou Ssu-ts'ung, a woman painter who produced conservative figure pictures at an earlier stage in her career, now does powerful, sombre works such as these: "Purgatory" from 1982, on right, depicting Chinese people interned by Japanese during occupation, behind barbed wire; and the landscape with waterfall of 1981 at left, which again draws closer to some LS by Chinese artists working outside China, of the kinds we've seen.

S,S. Specialists in flower-and-plant subjects are taking their part in this shift from traditional styles into styles that hover between the figurative and the non-objective. Ptg of gourds and vines on right by P'eng P'ei-ch'uan, young artist of Beijing Ptg Acad whose works I especially admire; one of a lotus on left by Ts'ui Tzu-fan, older artist also working in Beijing. By retaining this much hold on established Chinese modes of composition and brushwork as well as subject matter, these painters can draw on strengths of a tradition not yet exhausted while taking promising new directions.

S. Artists who loose this hold altogether, by contrast, to pursue Western models for abstract styles, as seen in this work by the leader of a Shanghai group called the "Grass Grass" art group, seem to me on the whole far less satisfying. I offer this only as a personal view, by someone deeply committed to Chinese tradition; others may feel differently on the matter. I'm not simply evading value judgements, but I don't want to try to justify mine on this occasion--perhaps another time. My familiarity with the works of the "avant garde" ptrs in China is insufficient, in any case, for me to have any really informed opinion on them.

S,S. It's interesting to see that Mr. Wang Ch'ang-chieh, the other C.C.Wang whose exhibition is now on view here, in addition to his many excellent bird and flower and animal paintings in a relatively traditional mode, also does some paintings in a more abstract manner, either through decorative flattening of the forms, as here, S,S. or through geometricizing, as in the painting on the right, or execution of the picture in wet, suffusing brushstrokes, as in the one on the left. Here, too, we can see a convergence of "inner and outer" Chinese painting styles.

S,S. Not enough time remains for me to deal broadly with landscape painting in China in recent years; if I were to do so, I would show how another of the older and established artists , the Shanghai master Lu Yen-shao, has gone from a more traditional style into his own form of brush abstraction in recent works. I would talk about how painters as diverse as the young Szechwan painter Li Hua-sheng (right) and the older Wu Kuan-chung (left), whose style has been affected by his three years of study in Paris and his knowledge of Post-Impressionist painting, are rendering landscape scenery in calligraphic brushline with strong tendencies to making the forms ambiguous, still another apect of the abstracting tendency.

S,S. Two more by Wu Kuan-chung: "Great Wall," "Old Trees." And I would talk of the revival of the dark, inky landscapes at the hands of many artists. But instead, I will conclude with a consideration of a single landscapist who seems to me one of the most interesting and hopeful among those now working in China, at least among those known to me, and one whose work seems to me a fitting conclusion for this overlong lecture.

S,S. HIs name is Jia Youfu, and he is a professor in the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, a man in his forties. HIs subject matter is always the same: the T'ai-hang mountains in Shensi province, the same that inspired Ching Hao in the tenth century, and the same region, at least, that was the inspiration of Fan K'uan a century later. Jia Youfu has been going there every year for many years, painting not only the scenery but also the lives of farmers and oxherds and others there. Most of his pictures are small, studies of this kind: a thatched house by moonlight, with a dog in the yard outside; boys swimming in a pool in the rocks.

S,S. As the heir to centuries of ink-monochrome painting, he is still able to find fresh ways to use the medium, for highly original effects of light breaking through clouds, or reflecting off water.S,S. He especially likes to do pictures of woodcutters or herdsmen making their way home in the evening, with lowering skies beautifully rendered in smoky clouds of wet ink wash, and patches of red sunset light on the ground.

S,S. Others of his works, sometimes huge in size, are contemporary evocations of the Northern Sung monumental mode of Fan K'uan and others of that age: like those artists, Jia Youfu sets the overpowering scale of the painting by placing small figures at the bottom--here, two woodcutters walking beside a stream. When we think back to Wang Chi-ch'ien's or Liu Kuo-sung's or Wucius Wong's versions of this same landscape mode, we are brought back to a basic difference between the "inner" and "outer" branches of Chinese painting, the one with which we began:

S. Painters in the PRC prefer to present a more humanized, habitable world, engaging to the senses, often with touches of the narrative or anecdotal in their pictures; Chinese painters outside seem to have absorbed, whether consciously or not, the Western distaste for painting of that kind, which was once central to our own tradition but has more recently all but disappeared from it. Typical works by the overseas Chinese artists seem, beside those of their contemporaries in China, cool and withdrawn, fastidiously avoiding any overt appeal to the emotions, or even the kind of nostalgic mood that Jia Youfu creates. Again, most western critics are too prone to reduce this distinction to the difference between good art and bad, mistaking cultural and period predilections for absolute criteria of value, and to accuse the Chinese of sweetness and sentimentality; but that, I think, reflects only the limitations of our own tastes and tolerances.

S,S. Jia Youfu himself, in some of his recent works, has eliminated the human presence to present the landscape as self-sufficient; here is an impressive work of that kind, which still retains, however, the concern with sensory experience, the distinctions between soft and hard tactile materials, that he handles so well. No other contemporary Chinese master, so far as I know, is so accomplished in the old techniques of ts'un-fa or texture-strokes for rock surfaces and massed, repeated , softer strokes for vegetation and trees.

S,S. One one of my visits to his studio last fall Jia Youfu told me that he wants to become a great artist, a world-class artist, and with this as his goal, he is altering radically his style. And the new direction he is taking is seen in this extraordinary work. He understands very well all that I have just tried to define as a basic inner-outer distinction, and is giving up some of the attractions of his old style--lyricism, responsiveness to conditions of weather and times of day, human themes--to achieve this stark power. He hopes that this change will lift him from the ranks of Chinese artists who do what foreign observors will see (however wrongly, however narrow their vision) as trivial and traditional, and out of step with the world mainstream; he hopes that in his new style he will be recognized as a world-class artist, transcending cultural boundaries. Perhaps he will. He asked me what I thought of this new direction, wanting an initial Occidental reaction; I muttered something about how I hoped he would not give up his old style entirely in pursuing this one, but have little hope of influencing his decisions, and indeed would be fearful of doing so.

S,S. Here, in our final slides, is another work of Jia's new style--harsh, uncompromising, cold--and purged totally of that taint of appeal to simpler human feelings that makes so much of contemporary Chinese painting in China unacceptable to Western arbiters of artistic quality. Is this the future of Chinese painting? As a final personal view, I can say that I hope not; that we should pray that the grand reconciliation of inner and outer does not go too far in the direction of the inner adopting the special values of the outer, to the point of losing the qualities that have always distinguished Chinese painting: sensitivity of execution, responsiveness to the world around us, a deep humaneness, which no amount of scoffing, or shifting of fashions, can really discredit.. Thank you.

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