On February 20, 2014, Shen Xinggong’s solo exhibition “Andante Cantabile – Shen Xinggong Oil Painting Exhibition” opened at the National Art Museum of China, and through a series of works of oil painting the exhibition showcases the artistic exploring footprints of different periods. At the opening ceremony, the artist was exclusively interviewed by a journalist from CAFA ART INFO, to talk about some specific issues in the creation and teaching of oil painting.
Viewing the works of the exhibition, we find that the color is so beautiful, really creating a cheerful feeling, which matches the title “Andante Cantabile”. Could you generally introduce the situation of the exhibition?
Shen Xinggong: It exhibits mostly the works created in recent years. I mainly created figure paintings in the 1980s and 1990s, some of which are on display at the exhibition. The theme is “Andante Cantabile”, which emphasizes the lyrical which is a feature of oil painting, dominated by showcasing the oil paintings of landscape. It was a very strict selection of works for the exhibition, because I hope my works are arranged following concentration, only 99 works are on display, large scale paintings of landscape are on display at hall 1, paintings of still life and European landscapes are on display at hall 8, small paintings and sketching of Jiangnan landscape are on display at hall 9, the gallery behind hall 1 showcases my early works that were finished in the 1980s and 1990s. The process of evolution and the development in the context of my creation can be seen in the exhibition.
You were born in the South, and studied and now work at the Nanjing University of the Arts, basically living and creating in the South, does local culture affect your creation? What do you look for with the impact of geographical culture on artists’ creation?
Shen Xinggong: Geography is certainly of some relevance and influence on the artists’ creation, but with the development of time, geographical differences is less obvious than the previous works. As an artist, the work is of a certain geographical feature, which should be a naturally occurring phenomenon, rather than designing it, he or she prefers to initially express his or her emotion through the work, which doesn’t have any relationship with geography. To some extent, the artists make use of a subject to elaborate their ideas and a scene to express their emotion by the choosing a theme.
The formal language of oil painting is mainly divided into shaping and performance of color, and in terms of your creation, it is quite biased towards the traditional aesthetics. Could you combine your creative practices to talk about the formal language of oil painting?
Shen Xinggong: Oil painting is a visual art, which has to demonstrate the beauty of visual form, so that it is necessary to study the subject language and formal language of oil painting. Since the 1980s and 1990s, I became more and more conscious and used my initiative to study and explore my personalized artistic language. I didn’t hope that my creative work would simply showcase a natural image, but would be more subjectively in expressing my emotion. In the process of emphasizing the subjective performance, form and language played a crucial role, so that I focused on the form and tone of the work. Though I was most interested in the color of oil painting, because I believe color was the main language of oil painting, compared with any other painting styles, it is certain that the color of oil painting is of the strongest expression, and good at expression. So I have done some exploration in terms of color in recent years, such as the creation of still life, trying to process it by using a subjective color; in terms of the creation of landscape painting, rather than an objective reproduction of nature, it is a subjective expression filtered through the mind, enhancing the contrast and relationship between colors, to be more attractive and impress the viewers.
You have worked in the Nanjing University of the Arts for years, once served as the Vice President of the university, directing a lot of teaching, so what have you specially emphasised in terms of teaching?
Shen Xinggong: I think oil painting in art education is different from general teaching, as it focuses on teaching students in accordance with their aptitudes. Because art is valuable for its originality, so it refuses to be the same and respects the individual creation of the students. In fact it is a stringent requirement of a high standard for teachers. In teaching practice, I have committed to this, and strive to achieve the individualized teaching, focusing on students’ self selections, and promoting their growth in the course of their choices.
You mainly teach the creation of oil painting in Nanjing University of the Arts, what feature is the major in oil painting in Nanjing University of the Arts?
Shen Xinggong: Teaching of oil painting in Nanjing University of the Arts with thanks to the teaching accumulation by the predecessors, such as Liu Haisu, Su Tianci, etc., through the hard work over several generations, it laid a good foundation. Overall, it focuses more on the effective and expressive quality of the work, this good tradition has been continued, which also inspired me, and I hope to personally inherit it.
Date: February 20, 2014
Venue: a hall of National Art Museum of China
Journalist: Zhu Li/ CAFA ART INFO
Transcription: Ye Yuanfeng/ CAFA ART INFO, translated by Chen Peihua and edited by Sue/CAFA ART INFO.