Shao Dazhen, Overlook, 2010; Ink on paper, 39×39cm

I have recently read Shao Dazhen’s monograph “Art Style”, and deeply agree with the treatise on art style. I have knew Shao Dazhen over twenty years, so there is a better understanding Shao’s morality and knowledge, as well as his art creation of ink painting in the past decade, clearly confirms his insights on artistic issues.

Shao Dazhen wrote in the book: “Style goes with the person, where there is a person, there’s a style. Style also goes with works, where there are works, there are styles.” Here, the art style denies to be doped fake, and is consistent with the artist’s nature. Art style is composed of the elegant and vulgar, only when the art develops at a certain stage does an elegant style appear, it means that art style is based on the taste of the times, as well as an artist’s structure of knowledge. The so-called artistic style is eventually revealed that whether the thought, feeling and taste of the artworks are pure and sincere. In the performance of style, art is related to nature, intelligence and the understanding of people.

Shao Dazhen is a scholar and artist of high intelligence and understanding. As a professor of CAFA, director of the Committee of China Artists Association, Shao Dazhen has devoted himself to scholarship and teaching, becoming a noted historian and art theorist for contemporary Chinese art. Many people know Mr. Shao has a striking literary talent, but few know that he does not only write articles but is also obsessed with ink painting and has been exploring ink painting for more than decade. It was at the 70th birthday in 2004, he launched the initial solo exhibition of ink painting in China, at the Beijing International Art Museum, which was interesting to all art circles, and his works were highly praised by many famous painters. On seeing the exhibition, Hua Junwu sent the following inscription “The paintings have been transformed into an artistic conception”. The ink paintings of Mr. Shao make us ponder the relationship between the personality of the artist and the painting.

I believe that the ink paintings of Shao Dazhen is the real contemporary literati painting, which lies in that Shao is not only a renowned scholar in the contemporary art world, but also he pours his true love of nature into his paintings. Water, a stone, a tree, a house is the reflection when Shao is immersed in the landscape, with a leisurely and open mind. When Shao paints with a brush, he is often full of passion, and is engrossed, he chooses landscape painting as the main subject, as it better expresses his carefree quality and free spirit. Shao’s paintings openly express his emotion, instead of an imitation of shape, in a carefree and relaxed state, preferring to use a fat brush to paint his feelings, in between small spaces there are often unexpected images of landscape, as well as vast and deep landscapes constructed by the brush and ink. In addition, Shao deeply understands the artist for the nation and at board level, and the hobnobbing with contemporary Chinese ink painters, serving as the assessment of many important exhibitions over the years, writing reviews for many key artists, forming an high artistic appreciation. Therefore, his ink and wash is based on his academic accomplishment, painting spontaneously in a context, gaining a natural appearance, denying the affect of any school, to be in sui generis in the contemporary ink painting circles. In brief, Shao’s ink painting is real, plain, natural, reflecting a detached taste that is beyond the mundane utilitarian.

He Huaishuo, a well-known painter and critic in Taiwan called Shao Dazhen’s ink painting “His painting is like the artist”, similar to the principle which the French scholar Buffon said “Style is the man”. Shao Dazhen’s ink and wash is the continuation of the most important connotation in traditional Chinese ink painting that ink painting is a program that seems to be insurmountable for Chinese intellectuals, however, for the ones going into the temple of ink and wash, the qualities of academic accomplishment of humanities, character and personality of the artists are more important. Pan Tianshou believes that the style of painting is the reflection of the character of the artist, therefore, “It’s impossible to make a remarkable contribution for an artist who lacks a special talent, noble character, profound learning, extensive knowledge, hardworking experience.” Seen from the surface, painting is a technology, if looking inside it is art. Huang Binhong called Chinese ink a “painting study”, which means that it contains many things, widely heard as the arrival of full knowledge, silence and understanding of the mysterious for the sentiment. We have a reflection of the development of contemporary Chinese ink painting, though recently it appears as stagnation and confusion although there are frequent exhibitions and diversified styles at the surface, it is because many painters deify the “ink language” of Chinese ink and wash, regarding the ink language and technique as the subject, ignoring the deep and broad humanities spirit for Chinese ink and wash.

Looking at the development of contemporary art, we see more and more content which is rich in sociological and cultural significance, for artists, the cultivation of the humanities are condensed into a distinct personality which is spontaneously revealed under their brushes. Shao Dazhen has created his own unique style with the development of contemporary Chinese painting, which gives us multifaceted enlightenment.

June 1, 2011

Translated by Chen Peihua and edited by Sue/CAFA ART INFO

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