Undoubtedly, Song Yuanwen is one of the representatives of the “second-generation printmakers” in new China, following the “first-generation printmakers” such as Li Hua, Gu Yuan and Li Qun. In order to commemorate Li Hua’s 110th birthday, “Prometheus in Printmaking” was hosted at CAFA Art Museum last December, and now it launches an exhibition on Song Yuanwen, who was Li Hua’s successor, on the occasion of the centennial celebration of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in 2018. On the afternoon of December 9, 2018, “Spiritual Journey: Research of Song Yuanwen” was unveiled, and many artists from numerous printmaking circles, as well as honored guests and scholars from art circles attended the opening ceremony, in order to express their deep respect for Song’s achievements in printmaking and art education over more than half a century. As a special exhibition from the Centennial Celebration of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, it is themed on “Spiritual Journal”, started from three cultural identities including “Printmaking Artist”, “Printmaking Educator”, and “Printmaking Activist”, and their dynamic relationships, so that the representative works of different periods, and the related literature from the research of Mr. Song Yuanwen is comprehensively presented at the exhibition.
Song Yuanwen was born into a peasant family in Liaoning in 1933. Although it was during turbulent times, Song’s family tried their best to provide him with the opportunity to go to school. And because his grandfather loved drawing and Chinese calligraphy, Song was exposed to some basic painting skills and observation methods when he was a child. In the 1940s, along with the start of the revolutionary war, a Chinese emerging printmaking movement won support among the people in the process of propagating a revolution. Song was inspired by the promotional prints published in the newspapers that he read in school. In 1948, Song Yuanwen joined the art team of the Baishan Art School in Liaoning. In 1949, Song became a member of the stage art group of the Liaoning Provincial Art Troupe. Song was then transferred to the Liaoning Provincial Literary Federation and served as an art editor of “Liaodong Literature and Art”, and later, he worked in the art team at Liaodong Tongsu Publishing House and the art team at Liaoning People’s Publishing House.
In 1956, Song Yuanwen was admitted to the Department of Printmaking at Central Academy of Fine Arts, and he taught at the school after graduation. First of all, Song was a printmaker, looking back at Song Yuanwen’s printmaking creations, it is obvious that Song has been searching for innovation and his personal expression in all stages of creation, regardless of being a student, a young teacher, or a professor of Central Academy of Fine Arts. Secondly, Song was a printmaking teacher, who “has participated in the establishment of the teaching system of Chinese printmaking, based on which the teaching is restored and improved.” Song first proposed to “establish the Printmaking Teaching System in China”, which has become one of the guiding ideologies of the Department of Printmaking to a certain extent. Examining Lu Xun, Li Hua and Song Yuanwen, people can clearly see the context of the development of modern Chinese printmaking. As Lu Xun was the pioneer of printmaking art, Li Hua inherited Lu’s thought, faithfully and objectively recording the reality of the people. However, Li was not satisfied and he hoped to lead and develop the printmaking industry. Li Hua’s student Song Yuanwen, a printmaking activist, who realized Li Hua’s will, tried his best to expand the team in the Department of Printmaking and brought in some talented teachers.
President of Central Academy of Fine Arts Fan Di’an delivered a speech and said it was a proper opportunity to launch the “Spiritual Journey: Research of Song Yuanwen” on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in 2018, which does not only fully present Song Yuanwen’s artistic achievements, but also plays an important academic role in reviewing the development of Chinese prints and Chinese art.
Since the Department of Printmaking at the Central Academy of Fine Art was established in 1955, Li Hua, Wu Biduan, Song Yuanwen, Tan Quanshu, Guang Jun, Wu Changjiang and Su Xinping served as the Director of the Department of Printmaking and now Wang Huaxiang is the director. Wang believes that all directors have made their contributions to the teaching, creation and development of the Department of Printmaking, and Mr. Song has made a special contribution. From 1986 to 1993, Song Yuanwen served as the director and organized the teaching of the department. Directed by Song, many outstanding graduates such as Su Xinping, Liu Liping, Yu Chen, Wang Huaxiang, and Li Fan became teachers of the Department of Printmaking. And together with some other teachers, they are composed of a strong, diverse and open team, in addition, the silk screen studio, the photography studio (course), and the illustration studio were established during his tenure to embrace the pioneering team and excellent layout, compared with other art faculties in China.
In the opening ceremony, Song Yuanwen’s student and his inheritor Su Xinping who is the Vice President of Central Academy of Fine Arts delivered a speech and expressed his gratitude to Song Yuanwen. Su believes that, Mr. Song’s forward-looking nature, his teaching thoughts and his artistic pursuits are actually all in line. Mr. Song’s works of black and white woodcut created in a refined way of cutting express his understanding of the universe, nature and life, and his aesthetic energy has inspired many people. Seen from the perspective of printmaking history, Mr. Song’s works are a symbol of the modernity which has replaced the lyrical tradition of Chinese prints.
The artist of the exhibition and the former Director of the Department of Printmaking at Central Academy of Fine Arts Song Yuanwen addressed the opening ceremony, and expressed his gratitude to the honored guests and said that it was also the 70th anniversary of the starting of his artistic career. Song said he was fortunate to be taught by several masters from emerging printmaking, such as Li Hua, Gu Yuan, and Huang Yongyu, who have important influences on Song’s artistic creation. Song was admitted to the Department of Printmaking at Central Academy of Fine Arts 62 years ago, and has experienced the tortures that occur in the process of his artistic creation, and he has realized that it is a spiritual project. The use of the true, the good and the beautiful, he has a dialogue with people. Every work should reveal a new discovery and a new expression. For an artist, he or she should continue to explore. And the senior artists constitute a textbook of life and art, leading Song to the journey in printmaking.
After the end of the opening ceremony of the exhibition, Mr. Song Yuanwen unselfishly donated many works to the academy, which are now in the permanent collection of the CAFA Art Museum. As President Fan Di’an said at the opening ceremony, Mr. Song Yuanwen’s donation and his exhibition will be an important part of the memories of the centennial celebration of the Central Academy of Fine Arts. It remains on view till January 3, 2019.
Text by Yang Zhonghui, translated by Chen Peihua and edited by Sue/CAFA ART INFO
Photo by Hu Sichen/CAFA ART INFO
About the Exhibition
2018 National Art Work Collection and Donation Rewarding Project Organized by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the People’s Republic of China
Special Exhibition of the Centennial Celebration of the Central Academy of Fine Arts
“Spiritual Journey: Research for Song Yuanwen”
Duration: December 9, 2018 – January 3, 2019
Venue: Gallery 3A, CAFA Art Museum
Strategy Planning Director: Fan Di’an
Academic Chairs: Su Xinping, Wang Shaojun
Director: Zhang Zikang
Curator: Wang Huaxiang
Executive Curator: Cai Meng
Research Team: Yang Yanyuan, Shi Jie, Li Wenxiang, Li Fan (supervisor)
Exhibition Coordinators: Yang Hongwei, Huang Yang, Gao Gao, Lin Xi, Li Xinghua
Host: Central Academy of Fine Arts
Organizer: CAFA Art Museum, Department of Printmaking at the School of Plastic Arts, CAFA
Supported by China Artists Association
Co-organizers: Printmaking Art Committee at the China Artists Association International Academic Printmaking Alliance (IAPA)