ARTicle is a feature curated by 3812 Gallery, presenting must-read articles by curators, scholars and art critics focusing on Eastern Origin in Contemporary Expression for your weekend digest.
In the thrid edition of ARTicle, we selected an essay written by Dr. Xia Kejun first published in the exhibition catalogue Grand Landscape in 2019, to immerse you in Shanghai artist Wang Jieyin's grand landscapes.
Wang Jieyin’s Grand Landscape:
Reconstructing the Depth of Nature
Dr. Xia Kejun
An implicit beginning of modern painting originated in the West lies in Cézanne’s notion of art as creating harmony parallel to nature; painting must reconstruct depth in facing nature. This involves creating two-dimensional visual depth as well as depth of poetic spirit. This is the fundamental issue of modern painting described by Baudelaire: “eternity in transition” and “poetry in history”; the mission of combing the four aspects is not accomplished yet. Later, Western painting basically discarded the problem of creating depth in painting by means of nature. If a new kind of painting exists in our age of digital reproduction, almost only the depth of nature could make art possible again. The fundamental issue of “repainting Cézanne” becomes the condition for the emergence of new painting. This is why modern painting of the West always restarted from Cézanne. Correspondingly, if a new kind of Chinese painting exists, it should be able to reconstruct the depth of nature in its own way.
After the double reform of Westernization and returning to tradition, an independent modern aesthetic language of Chinese modern painting through the 20th century began to take shape. On the one hand, it had to revive the essence of traditional aesthetics, to continue what Dong Qichang of the late Ming dynasty described as “plain and naive, the vast Jiangnan.” On the other hand, it had to form a “pure language” and nature’s elemental “original language” after conversing with all forms of language in the modern West—especially abstract painting. The common transformation of the two aspects lies in “contemporary representation of oriental spirit.” In terms of painting, the basic origin of this oriental spirit is: unearthing the immanence of nature, distilling forms of life transformation implied in eternal elements like water quality and fire quality and reconstructing the contemporary “mindscape” of the poetic artistic state of shanshui, in its quaintness and desolation. The mindscape is the historical reconstruction of “depth”; it also produces Chinese painting with great quality, thus rewriting modernity.
In the contemporary representation which systematically constructs the Eastern spirit or Eastern aesthetics, modern painting in China has already been through two phases. The first involves the first generation artists of the first half of 20th century represented by Huang Binhong, Lin Fengmian and ink painter Qi Baishi in China, as well as expatriate artists such as Yun Gee and Sanyu. They basically transformed “realism,” combining two kinds of “brushwork” of the East and of the West (Realism and Impressionism); we can even include Xu Beihong into this phase. The second phase is represented by artists of the second generation during the second half of the 20th century, including expatriate artists such as Zao Wou-Ki and Chu Teh-Chun as well as Wu Guanzhong in China. They took “abstraction” as their basic form and attempted to return to nature through abstraction. During this century-long exploration, artists created a great tradition that both combined and transformed art of the West and that of the East. Since the 85 New Wave, China has gone through three decades of exploration. In the 21st century, a new group of artists emerged. They did not imitate Western art; what they made was not the Cynical and Kitsch art of the 1990s. They did not directly inherit tradition either. What they made was neither experimental ink painting nor new literati painting. They attempted to start from the Eastern spirit and integrate the ancient, the present, the East and the West through positive influence of abstract thinking while being able to reconstruct depth of nature in confronting industrial destruction upon the latter. A new school of contemporary Chinese painting was formed. How did the third generation artists extend and expand existent ontological language of painting? Have they formed an artistic language which represents Chinese art in its entry into the world? These representative artists are to be discovered and searched; their art is a key direction of Chinese painting study in the future.
The three aforementioned aspects will be the three key dimensions in thinking on contemporary Chinese painting: reconstruction of the aesthetic depth of modernity, Wang Jieyin’s Grand Landscape: Reconstructing the Depth of Nature － Dr. Xia Kejun Academic Advisor representation of the Eastern spirit through original language, and major representative artists who construct language. They are also three indispensable aspects in constructing contemporary Chinese painting theory: retracing art history and reconstructing the beginning, contemporary transformation of philosophy of art or world view, and the unique and general contribution of an artist’s individual language of painting.
Mr. Wang Jieyin is an artist who has made contributions in all three aspects. His oeuvre requires careful and rigid academic examination.
Wang Jieyin, Long Beach, Acrylic on canvas, 70 cm x 150 cm x 2, 2015
In his six-decade painting career, Mr. Wang Jieyin, a 77-year-old artist from Shanghai, has gone from printmaking to oil painting, from canvas to ink, from imagery and abstraction to infra-image. Through his individual and imaginative way, he has been representing “nature,” avoiding figurative painting en plein air and programmed imagery. His painting is not abstract despite its abstractness. Combining the quality of ink and that of oil, its simplified yet decorative lines as well as abstract dots and geometric forms construct memory containing images of traditional landscape painting while integrating strange modern urban spaces. In facing the destruction and ruined state of nature, the artist produces a forceful, fantastic and mysterious profound state even in the post-industrial era, forming his own grand paintings, making him a representative artist of Chinese painting. Undoubtedly, Wang Jieyin, along with his peers Shang Yang and Qiu Shihua, is representative of the third phase. What distinguished him from these other elder gentlemen is the extraordinary achievement and magnitude he achieved through the two mediums of oil on canvas and ink on paper.
The exhibition at Hong Kong Arts Centre is titled Grand Landscape. By making good use of spatial detours, it attempts to represent the double magnitude of Mr. Wang Jieyin’s paintings: one is the large dimensions of works, by which afterglow of classical landscape boundlessly extends in the meandering space through rhythmic dots and succinct scrawls; the other is damage and collapse of natural landscape and labyrinth mutation of urban space. Both are superimposed cleverly, re-endowing life’s form to the depth of nature through contemporary visions. Moreover, nature here went through modernity fragmentation and disintegration; it is even ruined. Yet some indelible deep mercy and poetic desolation lingers there, making an implicit condition of spiritual redemption. This is precisely the value of these masterpieces in terms of modernity. Their depth and magnitude bring a new comprehension of great landscape motifs and the great mission of painting in our era. It makes us understand the redemptive value of painting in terms of modernity, so as to retrieve the dimension of “eternity” that modernity lacks.
I. Reconstructing Depth of Nature through Cultural Memory
Painting is a two-dimensional art. How to keep to two-dimensionality while regaining depth? From the three-dimensional illusion of focal perspective of the Renaissance to Cézanne’s attempt to regain depth through nature, followed by Abstract Expressionism which generated emotional depth through the relation between medium and surface. Where is the value of painting as it is gradually replaced by technique?
Since modernity, artists have been confronting the problem of the presence of nature. This was precisely the object of Cézanne’s doubt. At the start of his dialogue with Gasquet, Cézanne stated that “Nature is always the same, and yet its appearance is always changing”; a painter’s mission was to convey nature’s eternal pulsation with all its changing elements and appearances. How to do this? Cézanne continued by saying that “I join together nature's straying hands…I select colors, tones and shades; I set them down and bring them together….” However, obviously Cézanne has not completely returned to the source of natural feeling and entered the most original power or “temperance.” This was why he said he needed another ten years to realize the depth of nature. There is another solution: Monet built a pond by himself and painted the “big paintings” of water lilies in the two decades that followed; the painting was a theater where natural light and shade interplayed. But the problem remained: it is not enough that nature appears as visual depth. Moreover, how to manifest the temperance of the most original power?
Obviously, the question was forgotten once Cubism and abstract art emerged. The art of modernity as a whole either moved toward visual constructiveness or non-visual conceptuality; nature became mere landscape scenery. If that is the case, then how to manifest nature with its most original temperance in art again?
Painting must face nature again. How did traditional Chinese literati painting face nature? As Dong Qichang put it, “in terms of strange paths, painting cannot be compared to the landscape; in terms of intricate brushwork, the landscape cannot never be compared to painting.” Nature manifests in painting in ways “between semblance and non-semblance.” Natural appearances go through impressionist transformation with programmed brushwork. Yet they implied original artistic states that convey bleakness and desolation. Certainly, once modernity emerged, one must get closer to “non-semblance” and open up a “nil” space of empty image between imagery and abstraction. The latter is a setting full of lingering feeling. It is neither direct expression nor nature painted en plein air; but it carries nature’s everlasting lingering feeling.
At the beginning of modernity, Cézanne confronted the question of representing nature’s depth through painting more completely than Monet. Although Monet’s painting in his garden enriched nature, it lacked a sense of history. As for Cézanne facing Mont Sainte-Victoire, under influence by classical poetry and Baudelaire, he thought he must visually construct space of three-dimensional depth on a surface through colors and also endow historical poetic depth. This is extremely difficult since Cézanne confronted a double impossibility: on the one hand, traditional landscape and its superimposition of myth and history no longer stood; it was impossible to directly endow historical signs and symbols to nature. And the plein air painting of the Impressionists lacked historical depth. Such is also the problem of Chinese academic realism in facing nature: there is vivid vitality but no sense of history or poetry.
How can one reconstruct historical depth in painting while facing nature? While this appears to be confrontation with the present nature, profound memory of cultural history is actually involved. Artists need to have their own “atlas of memory.” In other words, their contemplation of the landscape before their eyes already carries cultural memory of their history. Only the Chinese shanshui tradition can provide an index of such a memory. Once Chinese artists return to their own long tradition—especially the “poetic artistic state” of Chinese painting: vigor and simplicity, desolation and writerliness. These ineffable artistic states possess some detached profundity and surpass human and nature. Yet how to reconstruct the profound memory in modernity? This involves the influence of abstraction and confronting the ephemerality and vicissitude of modernity, the damage to environment and the status of the era of industrialization: nature has become ruins or been collapsed by industry.
The modern painting of the West confronts the ephemerality and vicissitudes of individual life. Yet how to attain eternity becomes problematic again. It is impossible to be confined to the limited experience of one’s flesh. Return to nature is inevitable. But the nature is no longer in harmony with man or a place for retreat in traditional Chinese agricultural society since, in modern industrial society, nature is damaged as well. In other words, both nature and humanity need rescue. Therefore, painting is forced to face the problem of conveying historical depth once again. The people of Wang Jieyin’s generation differ from the previous two generations who either largely confronted nature before their eyes and inherited traditional patterns, or made extreme abstraction and preserved the integrity of nature. Wang Jieyin and his peers confront the damaged and destroyed nature not by means of traditional patterns or abstract expression but through multiple shifts. This is especially incarnated as depth of artistic state. Artists such as Zao Wou-Ki did not enter this realm. Although Zao Wou-Ki and Chu Teh-Chun did some exploration of the relationships between abstract language and suggestion of nature, there was no historical depth.
Just how is the depth of nature in Wang Jieyin’s Grand Landscape constructed specifically? This must be analyzed step by step.
First, his works with flowers look like folk paper cuttings. Their silhouette-like compositions reveal the succinct style of Henri Matisse’s late period cut-outs. Furthermore, for the flowers with big branches and leaves resembling genealogical trees, the artist might have drawn inspiration from the Mustard Seed Garden Manual, a painting manual published between the Ming and Qing dynasties, containing both simple insights and general intuition. As conceptually simplified pictorial representations, these images also show a different kind of charm and extreme liveliness.
Wang Jieyin, Flowers, Acrylic on canvas, 180 cm x 130 cm, 2015
Second, the large acrylic landscapes look like landscapes. The painter even named the works in ways that link them to the titles of classic literati landscapes. Yet these works are not landscapes pertaining to the ancient times, only memories of the infra-images of ancient landscapes, just “semblance.” Neither direct depiction of the ancient landscape, nor plein air painting from life, Wang Jieyin only draws the lingering sense—just remaining images left after watching classical painting.
Third, regarding painting approach, therefore, the painter often casually dips paint on the canvas, observes the mottled traces left by paint and begins to sketch the contours. Mountains outlined with casual childish strokes are like the various traces that Leonardo da Vinci observed, or the water drips of Chinese calligraphy. This is a transformative observation. Moreover, they seem like regenerated Dunhuang murals to which some antique poeticism is added through the painter’s simplification treatment. This is the lasting charm brought by time; the painter attempts to express traces left after being affected and washed by time.
Fourth, in the large oil landscapes, mountains are sketched with succinct lines while their bodies are formed with abstract color fields. The strokes are free and casual, embodying so-called cursive strokes not intending for semblance. The simplification is like sketching or a kind of large primitive drawing—returning to free exertion through writing and painting in a primitive sense. Yet the inclined, undulating mountain form imbues the whole with a beautifully meandering and changing rhythm. This is also a representation of the traditional “vivid spirit resonance.”
Fifth, the entire tableau is also filled with some foggy and misty hue or carbonized primitive simplicity. Amid a stretch of “embers” that seem to be burned, we find traces of Dunhuang murals washed by time and feel the afterglow of the literati landscape. There is also nature’s inner energy of growth, attaining the depth of the lingering sense of ancientness. Such quaint temporality is precisely the historical depth lacking in modern nihilism.
Sixth, the gigantic ink landscapes that resemble shanshui landscapes in appearance actually differ from tradition in fundamental ways. In fact, they originate from projection of the modern labyrinth metropolis and imply stimulation of the modern magic city where the artist lives: Shanghai. The gigantic works titled Notes of Shanshui are purely painted with ink dots applied one after another. While making good use of relationships between dots and the negative space on the paper, the artist also responds to printmaking methods and creates fantastic spatial illusions by using varying densities of ink dots. While close scrutiny reveals them to be abstract ink dots, they look like mountains and hills in a landscape painting, or meandering metropolitan spaces; a dazzling depth is therefore constructed. They are also like hallucinatory spaces produced by modern digital technologies, with implications of the chaotic and disorienting state of modern life. Shrouded in mist, they also feel dreamlike. This evokes the artistic state of traditional Chinese landscape painting, particularly for the artist’s ink dots, which counter the wrinkle method in traditional landscape, reconstructing forceful and vigorous tableaux in addition to their resemblance with psychedelic spaces in modern cities. The two aspects are cleverly superimposed, precisely embodying the “hybrid modernity” of Chinese society.
Wang Jieyin, Grotto Hidden in Greenery, Acrylic on canvas, 200.5 x 100.5cm, 2017
A new “infra-image painting” is born. For example, in Wang Jieyin’s latest large ink landscapes made in 2019, branches in the foreground are like silhouettes while the background is shrouded in integral and secret shanshui ambiance. Decorativeness and sense of history are incredibly integrated. Moreover, the hollow and protruding tactile sense evokes the pressing and carving of print art. With an implied indelible inner belief, this surpasses the abstract language of Zao Wou-Ki and the others, and creates a new painting with boundless lingering feeling.
Between Chinese imagery and Western abstraction, Wang Jieyin’s works range from prints to acrylic works and the mediums range from oil to water. Through the shifts, he also reconstructs the depth and poeticism of classical artistic state and forms a mindscape of modernity through a visual language of superimposition and great tension.
II. Ruins of Nature and Its Redemption
Such paintings made by superimposing natural landscape and urban space begin with seemingly discarded works treated by the painter through ordinary happenstance. While such a paradoxical method may appear easy, it is actually extremely difficult to execute, which again embodies the allure of such painting.
Painters living in the modern world have to face the destruction of nature; this distinguishes modern landscape painting from tradition. Far from the natural environment of the agrarian era, we now live in modern cities and industrial pollution; the lively mist has deteriorated into dirty air. How painting comes to reincarnate poetic artistic state while confronting such disaster of modernity—this is the great challenge of contemporary Chinese painting in inheriting tradition and the real feeling in facing the crisis of modernity. Only art which is able to solve crisis can be termed great art of modernity and art with redemptive truth!
Rather than natural landscape painted from life, the nature in Wang Jieyin’s grand landscape is a confrontation with the destroyed and ruined nature which looks dark and gloomy, polluted and wasted nature, or nature amidst a nocturnal scene of industrialization. Yet there is some indelible profound state of classical landscape that encourages us to face the destruction and makes us enthusiastic and detached within.
Thus, the value of Wang Jieyin’s modern painting lies in the clever fusion of multiple paradoxical forms:
First, we can start again from a print titled Chinese Landscape made in 2001. The work suggests the pressure on the painter in facing the sublime representation of modernity. While it seems to re-disintegrate the wrinkle method of Chinese landscape, his painting also looks like a Western chapel or destructive and violent missile and pinnacle. Yet the whole picture is actually not that sharp; it is only the softly rising rhythm of the stroke traces. We also see some quaint forms evoking the rubbing in Dunhuang murals. Here, rupture and connection begin to reconnect. The seeming rupture and disintegration actually implies connection. Such tension is the key to transforming the modernity of the Chinese landscape. It is impossible to enter modernity through direct inheritance without rupture. This might come from the artist’s printmaking experience. He preserves tactile feeling of pressing traces or carving traces and employs black and white palette and hard edge lines, along with the texture and stroke force as well as charcoal-like deep texture. These are also traces inscribed in the artist’s subconscious which come to shape the artist’s individual form of life.
Second, Wang Jieyin’s paintings are made in particular ways. He often sees the possibility of painting from a piece of blank Xuan paper or the blank part of an ancient painting. Or he keeps the original color and texture of canvas without applying ground color or glue in order to start painting from the original simplicity and plainness. He often even begins from works painted or discarded by others. Such borrowing and appropriation imply a salute to the readymade and the other. Furthermore, beginning his paintings from waste, useless and discarded things or the works of others leads to another kind of readymade and conceptual art. Yet this is so ordinary; everything can be drawn and begun casually and all the habits and programming can be broken. This is also why Wang Jieyin’s painting always carries some naive delight of simple wisdom. Starting from this creative idea, Wang Jieyin’s painting begins with respect for waste, making his landscape more than traditional landscape but a ruined landscape of the era of industrialization. This is also embodied in formal disintegration. The forms of flowers and landscapes are so fully disintegrated and even fragmented, and yet so intricate. Such is the charm of painting!
Third, the palette also involves a particular paradox in relation to time: on the one hand, the paintings are like sketches done with charcoal, from the earth’s elements, or represent a state of ruin after industrialization. These landscapes contain coal remains or air dug from the depths of earth. While incarnating the temporality of material itself, they are also symptoms of the modern destruction of nature. More than a state of ruin, there is further transformation: on the other hand, the artist intentionally gets closer to remaining traces of ancient murals. The strokes, dark as coal, contain tragic and heavy feelings about life. Yet such feelings are brought back to a quaint hue close to that of Dunhuang before being washed by time. Natural appearances come to bear the quaint form of the Wei and Jin dynasties. The artist cleverly combines these seemingly paradoxical aspects; his skill is his ease and plainness within.
Wang Jieyin, Green Skies, Acrylic on canvas, 73 x 100cm, 2017
Fourth, Wang Jieyin’s palette is particularly unique. Always with a dryness and some roughness, it keeps the original colors—yellowish brown, carbon black—or coarse texture of the cloth; even dark green and scarlet always appear ancient and raw. This leads to the depth of nature, both wasted, old and quaint. The quaintness means a kind of temporality, bringing unpretentious naturalness. The roughness is almost impossible to achieve; it is a natural appearance. But for Wang Jieyin, this is destruction with incoherence and a sense of fragmentation and also indelible tenacity and firmness. The darkness and heaviness pertaining to print, and the darkness that traces back to Huang Binhong are particularly like a distilled essence drawn from the depths of earth.
Fifth, the grand landscapes further incarnate the paradoxical feeling of combining the ancient and the present: on the one hand, new landscapes in acrylic absorb earth’s aura and capture the destructive elements of pervading mist. The diluted acrylic paint’s permeation on canvas is thoroughly employed; spots and texture are applied everywhere. Everything seems to be lighthearted like children’s scribbles. On the other hand, the sophistication can be perceived through careful appreciation. The seemingly casual traces and strokes are actually placed in quaint landscape patterns and profound artistic state; imminent traces acquire eternal aura. And the charm of art indeed lies in dissolving bitterness of life, the seemingly childlike words actually reveal internal tenacity. Such is the contemporary revival of “raw” aesthetics in China.
Sixth, the offset color method of woodcut printing has likely deeply influenced the artist’s tactile sense and endowed him with a general formal grammar. Such is the chromatic sense of geometric furniture forms: city and canyon, geometric grid and urban labyrinth. The superficial decoration and illusion of shallow relief reverse the superimposition of the classical and fashion. Thus, the works which look like classical landscapes actually come from some distorted abstract color fields which the artist has been experimenting with in acrylic. Some are even interweaving geometric shapes or decorations on furniture. One of Wang Jieyin’s works is titled Geometric Landscape, since distinction from the traditional landscape can only be achieved through a vision influenced by abstraction. Instead of semblance, it is closer to non-semblance. As for the gigantic ink works, whether Notes of Shanshui in 2008 or Grand Landscape in 2019, they represent large-dimension magic spaces in two-dimensional spaces purely through abstract dots. They look like intersected streets in modern cities, giant, maze-like overlapping landscapes.
These large ink landscapes feel like illusory trips. They seem to be digitally synthesized or possesses print-like texture, involving the artist’s offset colors and deconstruction of modern living space and formal construction. Once the artist brings the contemporary vision into landscapes—especially with abstract dots to represent new shanshui space, city and nature, traditional spiritual seclusion and the strange feeling of being lost in modern cities, modern industrial pollution and urban night scenes, the indelible shanshui memory of classical nature is paradoxically and cleverly superimposed, deconstructed and reconstructed without losing the artist’s consistent simplicity and naivete. The darkness and antiquity of his palette, the yellow and reddish brown, are covered with a layer of quaintness.
Such is the artistic magic of Mr. Wang Jieyin’s painting: his tableaux appear quaint yet strange, plain yet fantastic, raw yet extremely skilled, ancient yet fashionable, abstract yet so natural, fragmented yet so complete, a force of redemption transformed from the confrontation with the disaster of modernity. The tension of Wang Jieyin’s painting comes from combining abstract blocks of Western painting and big freehand lines of Chinese traditional painting. The naive, romantic flowery poeticism comes to mend the gaps of time between fashion and eternity, remoteness and infatuation, antiquity and seductiveness, the digital and the decorative. The profound artistic state of nature therefore reappears in fragmented ways, allowing profound temporality of cultural history to be transformed in abstract form. While the sentiments seem paradoxical, they are unified in a subtle poetic ambiance. This is a new infra-image painting.
III. Contribution to the Original Language of Painting
Modernity requires a quaint temporality to mend its fundamental fragmentation and nihilistic feeling. Yet how to carry this out through the language of painting? This requires a return to the base of life, nature’s elementariness and context of cultural historical memory, which have to be integrated internally. Such integration is the spirit, the artistic concentration. Each revolution in painting is about returning to an original language, finding new aesthetic principles and inaugural elements, breaking existent historical routines, discovering new pure language. Mr. Wang Jieyin makes fundamental contributions to representing “original language” through contemporary Chinese painting, which amounts to contemporary representation of Chinese cultural spirit.
Already in his early printmaking days, Wang Jieyin was creating shanshui and nature as he understood them. He continued with individual creation of modern oil paintings and shanshui sketches with ink and gigantic works with folded spaces. From flowers with the antique charm of the Dunhuang murals to acrylic oil series of grand landscapes, and grand ink landscapes with quaint, desolate state and hallucinatory vision, he established his individual language or “original language” step by step. The basic original language of Wang Jieyin’s painting is formally simplified writing and rhythm-making, the mural texture and lofty quaintness of palette, the abstract dots composing original language and the fantastic folded space. The sense of writing and abstractness are combined into infraimage painting.
Wang Jieyin’s painting has its own way of shifting original language: he finds new links between views of nature and notions of life. With his carefree character and ordinary plainness of painting, his passion for a piece of discarded canvas and Xuan paper, his intuition for the blankness of an ancient landscape, and memory of ancient mural traces, he starts from the handmade feeling and tone of his original black-and-white woodcut prints, and revives a quaint, simple yet profound and fantastic state, the classical vivid spirit resonance and poetic artistic state. These are done through construction with abstract dots in the contemporary era and montage of meandering urban spaces. He creates his own language of painting in the way he outlines mountains and the decorative delight of simplified branches.
Wang Jieyin, Grand Lanscape, Acrylic on canvas, 170 cm x 150 cm x 2, 2016
The aesthetics of Wang Jieyin’s painting reveals the significance of Chinese painting in the contemporary era. It is finding an almost impossible fusion between traditional Chinese imagery and Western abstract, between abstract composition and mist in nature, between memories of quaint images and cursive blurriness, between improvisational happenstance and dignified elegance, carefree play and rhythmic construction, and between a sense of hardship and childlike primitiveness, therefore creating a quaint and forceful state of life.
For the painter Wang Jieyin, painting means reflection of memory. The world has become withered and yellow, just like an ancient tableau. He has to restart and regain childlike clear vision. Looking at Mr. Wang’s works, we feel the divine grace exerted upon Chinese painting again. We feel the strong renaissance of original, simple and elegant charm of Chinese classical landscape and flowers. The contribution of contemporary Chinese painting is awakened again; the long-gone beauty of nature is expressed through the flowers’ eternal manners on branches through a form which looks like ruins yet provokes implicit redemption. Only by totally accepting ancient and profound temporality can contemporary painting resist frivolous and foam-like instances of modernity and appease our contemplation. Such is the principle of life fed by immersion in the landscape. Wang Jieyin’s painting is so naive and strong; it also reconstructs the particular “verdant and elegant” Chinese cultural aesthetic in the contemporary world.
Contemporary Chinese painting differs from Western painting in its full acceptance of hazy traces left by time and history as well as memory of natural evolution. Between the carefree strokes and high antiquity, painting’s inner force allows for inner purity and peace. Specifically, Wang Jieyin’s works incarnate the redemption value of modernity through such “ink spirit.”
There are dialogues among acrylic works and ink works in this exhibition, returning things to the plainest state or origin. Like ink works and “moss dots” of traditional landscape forming a gigantic landscape painting like projection. Under the seemingly abstract surface are hidden undulating figures of nature that reveal the aged artist’s audacity to dig into the abyss of existence.
The modern significance of Wang Jieyin’s painting is in its preservation of the cultural memory of the traditional landscape, but he also falls right back into the dilemma of modern industrialization. Something looking like fog in a desolate industrialized city becomes polluted toxic gas, or a night scene in a modern city. His concern for waste makes his grand landscape extend beyond landscape representing natural harmony. It rather accepts destruction of modern industry and the effects of the disaster. It is here that nature under disaster and damage comes to provide redemption. Such is the contemporary value of painting. In a situation of mixed modernity and confrontation of rupture and disaster, through memories of pre-modern landscape painting, abstract thinking and space superimposition of modernity, and the magic vision of post-modernity, Wang Jieyin’s painting creates his own formal language full of tension. The redemption brought by its quaint temporality is the grandness of his painting.
A representative of the third generation artists of Chinese modern painting, Mr. Wang Jieyin’s art is a contemporary representation of Eastern root or spirit. His abstract freehand creates strong and quaint spiritual traits. Through inner dialogue between ink-ness and oil-ness, representation of contemporary infra-image and nature’s depth and salvation of modern cultural memory, he elevates Chinese painting to a new height.