Following the art exhibition featured Tuomusi in the Jiri International Art District in May this year, the Shixiang Space has extended the thread of figurative figures by Tuomusi, and began to pay attention to Tuomusi’s students represented by Yang Feiyun, a group of artists who have made outstanding achievements in the field of contemporary realistic oil painting. At 4:00pm on the afternoon of July 8, 2018, the Invitation Exhibition for Famous Oil Painters entitled “Detachment” was unveiled. The exhibition brought together seven representative oil painters such as Xu Mangyao, Yang Feiyun, Guo Runwen, Leng Jun, Li Guijun, Zhu Chunlin and Chang Lei. They exhibited more than 40 of their creations made at various periods, many of which were new works and comprehensively reflect their thinking and exploration as well as the current situation of Chinese contemporary realistic oil paintings.
In modern and contemporary art theories, realistic oil painting is obviously an outdated topic. However, from the perspective of auction, the auctions dedicated to domestic realistic oil paintings have broken all records again and again, and the Western classical realistic oil painting exhibitions have been introduced to China which has set off a boom in exhibitions. Moreover, there has always been a group of artists and consumers who are keen on realistic oil painting. It has been recognised that the specific “Chinese conditions” hide behind the general theory prevailing in China: domestic realistic oil paintings are still rejuvenated. In this exhibition, Xu Mangyao’s portrait work “Ying Zi” (2013) where the model poses and stares at the right side of the picture; “Bass Player” (2016) puts her fingers on the strings but the head of the model is slightly raised to keep the side facing the viewer. Li Guijun’s “Red Rose” (2015-18), “Near in the Distance” (2017),”Awesome Things” (2018) and other works reproduce the harmonious symbiosis between the feminine style and natural scenery. Chang Lei’s work “Flat Table and Sweet Potato” (2017), “Lotus Root” (2018) carefully depict the ingredients that appear in our kitchen and on the dinner table. These masterpieces of realism provide an opportunity for us to understand and know the artistic concepts of painting and the skills of painting.
While paying attention to realistic oil painting, we cannot ignore the impact of modern art trends. In this context, Chinese realistic oil painters actively explore various possible artistic expressions and their own oil painting language to respond to this dilemma. Yang Feiyun’s portrait work “The Lady with a Flower Decoration” (2012) combines the figure of ancient Chinese painting with the image of a realistic character and portrays it with the language of oil painting style from the West, which successfully creates a sense of serenity. Guo Runwen’s works are small, but his portraits have both a leisurely gesture of expressing the elbows of the characters as a support, and a bust of the characters side on and so on. Leng Jun’s works have always been known as “super-realism”. His work exhibited in this exhibition is extremely small in size but rich in expression. Zhu Chunlin’s portrait “Tranquil Time” (2014), “Angel of the Annunciation” (2017), the characters in the painting have been removed from complex and intense movements and are in a quiet, peaceful state, moderate movements and environmental connections in the paintings in a realistic style that are featured as ideal characteristics of the artist’s expressions.
In general, the seven artists, whether they present portraits, or still life, or landscapes, and they show their solid oil painting skills, whether they are delicate or directly depict instant scenes. In their realistic paintings, we cannot only appreciate the charm of realistic painting, but also read their reflections and explorations on the development of realistic oil painting. Here, it is necessary to reiterate that the realism of art is not simply a reproduction of reality, nor is it an imitation of photography. These seven artists interpret the vitality of realistic art with their own artistic practice. Realistic oil paintings occupy an important position in the garden of Chinese contemporary art. It is not enough to summarize and express the appearance of oil painting art in contemporary China in terms of realism, figure painting, performance, abstraction, etc.. As early as 2000 years ago, the sages of ancient China explained the words “beyond the image, and the best is included”. Classical and modern, realistic and expressive, figurative and abstract vocabulary, pluralism, integration, division, opposition…all of these concepts have their own expressions. The spirit of the exploration of the source and asking questions is the mission of art.
Between the group and the individual, Shixiang Space seems to pay more attention to the individual state of the artist and the individual value of the art. As an independent institution, it aims to discover, present and promote the value of these artists. In this sense, this is an interesting exhibition and an exhibition with a “detached” attitude. In an interview with Li Dajun, he frankly said that from the perspective of artistic ontology, “Detachment” includes the transcendental attitude of the artistic language and creative subject, but it also includes the fact that these artists are in a state of persistence and independence, a detachment from society.
The exhibition will remain on view until August 8.
Text by Yang Zhonghui, translated and edited by Sue/CAFA ART INFO
Image Courtesy of Shixiang Space