Journey to painter's inner world

Posted by MaggieYang on 3. Mar 2009

Artist Wu Guanzhong is a natural headline grabber.

If it's not about his innovative ink-and-oil paintings attracting astronomical prices at auctions, it is about his acerbic verbal assaults on what he sees as an inactive and conservative Chinese art scene. He often ignites public debate about such issues as reform of artist's associations and of art academies.

Now he has donated more than 180 of his works, long kept in his personal collection, to three public art museums in Beijing, Shanghai and Singapore.

"What gives me most joy and satisfaction is not the high prices my works fetch at auctions but public recognition of my artistic creations," says the 90-year-old artist known both for his ingenious paintings and thought-provoking essays.

"I believe that art should always be made for the public and that society is the ultimate destination of my own artistic wealth."

This belief has led him to generously donate many of his works over the years.

All his donated works are now on display at the National Art Museum of China in downtown Beijing.

Visitors can see some of Wu's early realistic works of the 1950s as also his latest, Impressionist works of ink and oil, created in 2008.

His use of videos, installations and poetic captions make the show even more appealing.

"Wu's works are very impressive. They arrest one's attention at first glance and often, if not always, leave one with a lingering memory," says Li Feiyue, a visitor.

Of the poetic and explanatory captions by Wu himself, attached to each painting, Li says: "I feel like I am having an in-depth dialogue with the artist and the landscapes he paints."

Wu is widely regarded as an outstanding artist and art educator who has made significant contributions to the development of Chinese art from the second half of the 20th century to the present.

An energetic and creative artist, Wu excels in both oil and ink painting. For decades, he has been exploring new ways of reconciling the two traditions, and his works show the influence of both Chinese and Western styles.

His early works, whose main themes were the riverside towns in southern China, are highly poetic and his landscape paintings are wonderfully conceived, with emphasizing subtle movements and serene presence of nature through painted forms.

"Wu views art as his life and displays a profound love and understanding for art," says Shui Tianzhong, art historian and chief compiler of the Complete Collection of Works of Art by Wu Guanzhong (Hunan Art Press, 2008).

Wu's pioneering style and expression integrate both Chinese and Western sentiments, and this allows him to evoke an independent ideal that uniquely represents the spirit of Chinese art entering the new era, says Fan Di'an, dean of the National Art Museum of China.

The exhibition ends on March 8.


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