In the near future, the current students of the Central Academy of Fine Arts(abbr. CAFA) will participate in the annual practice of teaching and sketching in the countryside which are led by teachers of CAFA. As a tradition and characteristic of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, this will enhance the students’ abilities in observing and portraying life as well as their expressive languages. Before they go out sketching this year, an exhibition entitled “Lin Gang: Painting/Living” about sketching is presented at the CAFA Art Museum, which provides a sample by senior artists for young students studying at CAFA.
Generally planned by Fan Di’an, President of CAFA, the exhibition has renowned art theorist Mr. Shao Dazhen who was also a classmate of Lin Gang as its academic chair. Zhang Zikang, Director of the CAFA Art Museum, serves as the Artistic Director and Wu Hongliang, Deputy President of Beijing Fine Art Academy serves as the curator. As an exhibition on Lin Gang’s art, the exhibition has reviewed the artistic process and creative works of the artist, presenting the artist’s oeuvre from the perspective of explorations in the language of art. With a retrospective of the small sketches and abstract creations over the past 70 years, it highlights the artist’s adoring feeling for art and persistent exploration in making breakthroughs.
Mr. Lin Gang is an artist with a profound memory for images. His representative works such as Jinggangshan Reunion and Zhao Guilan at the Conference of Heroes have been included in the publication of textbooks. He studied in the Soviet Union in the 1950s and experienced strict realism training in painting, which laid a solid foundation for his modeling, later he insisted on oil painting exploration and teaching at the Central Academy of Fine Arts. Gao Hong, Secretary of the Party Committee of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, stated at the opening ceremony that Mr. Lin Gang is both one of the first generation of oil painters who developed with the People’s Republic of China and a pioneer and icon of oil painting education in the country. He was one of the main initiators of the Fourth Studio in the Oil Painting Department at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, and he served as the first director of the Second Studio and the Fourth Studio. In his early years, Mr. Lin Gang combined oil painting traditions with revolutionary realism and created a series of classical works through which he made important contributions to the expression of revolutionary history with Chinese oil paintings. After the reform and opening up, he continued to explore and develop in art, and he also created a large number of works with expressive and abstract significance. For this exhibition, Party Secretary Gao Hong believed that the juxtaposition of the oil painting sketches that Mr. Lin Gang created during his stay in the Soviet Union and his later abstract paintings, showcase his artistic spirit in constant exploration and self-challenge.
Regarding the significance of Mr. Lin Gang’s oil painting creation and teaching to the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Fan Di’an, Chairman of the Chinese Artists Association and President of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, commented: “Thanks to a group of senior artists with outstanding ideas, characters, styles and languages, the Central Academy of Fine Arts has formed an excellent academic tradition. Today we are going to get a better comprehension of the process and experience of their predecessors. We will study and promote the artistic spirit that senior artists constantly explore to push forward the development of our art education in the new era.”
The works exhibited in this exhibition include the sketching training of Mr. Lin Gang during his studies in the Soviet Union, the early depiction of rural life, as well as the large-scale abstract works he produced after the 1980s. These works prove Mr. Lin Gang to be tireless in exploring the language of oil painting. As the Academic Chair of the exhibition, Mr. Shao Dazhen mentioned in his speech at the opening, Mr. Lin Gang was wary of the formulation and conceptualization tendency of the Soviet Union and Chinese contemporary art when he was studying abroad. He believed that art should follow the laws of art and artists should study the principles of art. In the 1980s, Mr. Lin Gang was able to move from realistic figurative painting to abstract, imagery painting as he believed that Chinese art should have diversified forms and expressions.
The most representative pieces of Mr. Lin Gang’s art were a number of themed art creations. For example, Zhao Guilan at the Conference of Heroes has shaped the spirit of an era. However, this exhibition did not showcase these works instead it focuses on sketches and abstract works that are less known by the public. In fact, this is another real aspect of Lin Gang. He is an artist who is good at making breakthroughs and one of the artists who entered the abstract field early in the Chinese art world. At the opening ceremony, Mr. Lin Gang, who is 94 years old, said humbly that the exhibition was not intended to be a solo exhibition though he mostly wanted to bring these works out to communicate with everyone, especially young students who currently study at CAFA. For a better comprehension of these works, Wu Hongliang, the curator of the exhibition and the Vice President of the Beijing Fine Art Academy, guided his team to focus on the relationship between Mr. Lin Gang’s sketching and abstract painting language exploration, mainly from three aspects: firstly of all it is the exploration of “ontology” and the how of painting? What is left in those paintings? Those colors and lines and why Mr. Lin Gang has to start a search for abstraction from realism? Secondly, it is “concrete”. It is necessary to think specifically about Mr. Lin Gang’s history in the process of the artistic creation. What are the clues that he has never changed. Finally, it is “clean/pure”. “In the exhibition gallery, you can see a cabin just designed for Mr. Lin Gang. We hope that the window of the cabin is the window of previous CAFA, where you can find the spirit of the Academy.”
This exhibition does not only present a symphonic rhythm of Lin Gang, but it also shows his experience and skills in his creations. For example, during his study of the human body in the Soviet Union, he recalled the scene at that time “when painting people, the teacher crossed his fingers and said that all the colors are crossed. One needs to make a difference between warm and cold colors which constitute the flesh color. If this is red, the next one is going to be green. Why do you paint a human body? It is to solve these problems.” For the figurative sketch, his method is to first discover from black and white, then divide the warm and cold colors, always grasping the overall sense while observing the comparison of black and white and so on. A flesh color has dynamic changes due to various aspects such as light and age. It is not easy to distinguish them and it requires more practice. An artist might confront the difficulty of instant changes of light and colors, just like the sunrise. Mr. Lin Gang’s experience is to push the space on the skyline with one or two strokes, and use color to grasp the feeling of that moment. These are the experiences of a senior artist and the developing process that an artist experiences.
This exhibition will remain on view till May 1. Perhaps the young students of the Central Academy of Fine Arts can comprehend the sketching skills of their predecessor through the exhibition, and they will complete the practicing of sketches in the countryside with this kind of guidance and spirit. This is another important academic effect of this exhibition.
Text by Zhang Wenzhi and photo by Hu Sichen/CAFA ART INFO
Translated and edited by Sue/CAFA ART INFO