Yuan Yunsheng is the conscience of the Chinese art community. He is one of the outstanding representatives of art seekers who adhere to the ideal and the self in this era when most people are pursuit of fame and fortune, a rare master among Chinese contemporary artists. Compared with the mediocrities that are sophisticated, content with things as they are, refusing any change, it is difficult to find a “true man” (said by Chen Danqing) except for Yuan Yunsheng.
Yin Shuangxi, Professor of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Doctoral Tutor,
Director of the China Literary and Art Critics Association
On the afternoon of April 6, 2017, the “Awareness of Civilization: Exhibition of Artistic Works by Yuan Yunsheng” opened at the National Art Museum of China. The opening ceremony gathered many honored guests, including many scholars, professors and artists. Among them, the artist Yuan Yunsheng, President of the Central Academy of Fine Arts Fan Di’an, Wu Weishan, Director of the National Art Museum of China, Prof. Shao Dazhen from the Central Academy of Fine Arts and a Chinese art historian, all addressed the opening ceremony, and An Yuanyuan, Deputy Director of the National Art Museum of China hosted the opening ceremony.
This exhibition is a retrospective presentation of Yuan Yunsheng’s artistic career over several decades. It is divided into four parts depending on the theme: the Ink Implication, Taoism, the Coherence of China and the West, the Memories, and fully presents 141 pieces in ink, oil painting and etchings by Yuan Yunsheng, as well as more than 20 drawings and sketches since the 1960s. Among them, most of the works are on public display for the first time.
Collocation: Academy Tradition and Contemporary Enlightenment
Yuan’s name is widely acknowledged by the society, diverted from the Capital International Airport murals group finished in the 1970s, including his creation of “Water – Sprinkling Festival – Hymn of Life” which is a legend from the minority, meaning the prelude of human nature and ideological consciousness, this epoch-making works and other frescoes in the airport together become a sign of Chinese reform and opening up as well as a symbol of the ideological emancipation movement. In 1982, Yuan Yunsheng created a huge painting of “Red + Blue + Yellow = White? – On Two Ancient Chinese Fairy Tales” and “Human Fables” for the Tufts University in Boston and the Harvard University in the United States. With the attitude of a Chinese artist, he showcases the Chinese perspective and thinking on the worldwide intellectual elite, to express a Chinese artist’s worries, struggles and hopes for the future of humankind.
Fusion: American Abstract Expression and Traditional Chinese Painting
In 1982, Yuan Yunsheng was invited to the United States to participate in the creation of murals. At the beginning, Yuan Yunsheng visited the studio of the expressionist master Willem de Kooning, during this period, Yuan was influenced by the abstract expressionism and action painting, with the use of rice paper he created a large number of paintings of mixed media based on ink and wash. In the part of “Ink Implication”, it mainly presents the ink practice of Yuan when he lived in the America in the 1990s, such as “Rhapsody”, “Black Abstract”, “Line • Image”, etc., from these works one can see Yuan Yunsheng used Chinese ink materials, together with the exploration of formal language including dots, lines, surface, volume and space. Talking about his own painting creation, Yuan Yunsheng said that: “Predecessors of Chinese painting have accumulated a lot of experiences and incisive theories, such as in Shi Tao’s ‘A Painting Theory’, it refers to the idea that the way bears sensation, sensation bears memory, sensation and memory bear abstraction, and abstraction bears all the world and this idea almost influences all my life.”
Unique Creation: Seeking New Inspiration in the Visual Space of the “Non-Painting System”
The well-known artist Zhang Ding once said that: “Yuan Yunsheng is an artist concerned about the fate of humankind.” He has come to this conclusion of the senior artist because Zhang saw his passion and thinking of life in a series of paintings created by Yuan Yunsheng.
In 1996, Yuan Yunsheng who was nearly 60 years old, returned to the motherland and worked at the Department of Oil Painting, the Central Academy of Fine Arts, and directed the 4th studio. The fourteen years of overseas travel allowed him to follow life closely, he was concerned about the life status of people in social activities and then concerned about the accommodation and conflict in the process of civilization, as well as other general questions such as the happening, development and rebirth of the history of civilization. He went with the students to the Grotto Museums from all over the country to study, and first discovered “a huge treasure of ancient Chinese plastic arts”, Yuan Yunsheng proposed the reproduction of ancient Chinese sculptures, bronzes, murals and calligraphy, entering the basic education, and thus gradually built the “System in Higher Art Education in China”, basic education must return to the aesthetics based on their own local culture. Since then, Yuan Yunsheng has actively participated in the “Establishment of the reproduction of traditional Chinese sculptures and the contemporary Chinese art education system”, trying to offer Chinese art education more “Chinese” modeling experiences. During this period he created the “Dreamer”, “The Unyielding Old Man”, getting rid of the narrative logic but purely portraying the inner. In this period a part of the creation continued the experimental works of ink and mixed media, and Yuan Yunsheng used a variety of materials including wax, toner, albumen, so that the screen is full of a strong visual expression.
This exhibition is a reflection of the ideas of Yuan Yunsheng in different creative periods, and it used a variety of works and a lot of documents to form the artistic world of Yuan Yunsheng, allowing the artist to learn the creative talent of the artist, and see the contribution to Chinese art since the second half of the 20th century. As President of the Central Academy of Fine Arts Fan Di’an commented that: “Yuan Yunsheng experienced the ups and downs of the transformation period of Western art, so that he can think more thoroughly about the cultural orientation of Chinese art, and propose the reshaping of the value of Chinese civilization, running through Chinese cultural tradition in art education, to explore major propositions of Chinese own higher art education system, which is a new type of cultural consciousness and also a very valuable cultural self-confidence.”
Text by Lin Jiabin, translated by Chen Peihua and edited by Sue/CAFA ART INFO
Photo by Hu Sichen/CAFA ART INFO
About the Exhibition
Duration: From April 4, 2017 to April 16, 2017
Venue: National Art Museum of China
Opening Ceremony: 14:00, April 6, 2017
Seminar: 16:00, April 6, 2017