Traditional Chinese Painting (Part 2)
Traditional Chinese Painting (Part 2)
Landscape painting is a special area of study in art; it mainly depicts natural scenery. It developed during the Wei, Jin, and South-North periods (220 – 589 AD) but it remained secondary to figure painting as it was often used only as a backdrop. During the Sui and Tang dynasties (581 – 907 AD), landscape painting became an independent art. During the Northern Song period (960 – 1127 AD), landscape painting soared in popularity to reach its apex, and many artists took to this art form. The painters aligned into a southern and a northern faction that competed with each other to excel in landscape painting. Despite the differences in life experiences, accomplishments, schools and methods, landscape painters could all demonstrate the beauty of nature on paper through their brush, ink, color, skills and sketches. In the Yuan dynasty (1271 – 1368 AD), landscape painting inclined towards freehand expression with an emphasis on beauty through brush strokes. Traditional classification of landscape painting includes six categories.
Before the Wei, Jin, and South-North periods, flowers and birds in Chinese art only appeared figures and patterns on pottery and copperware. Oftentimes birds and animals are painted as a connection to mythical beasts. Flower-bird painting became an independent category of painting during the Tang dynasty.
The Ideology of "Heaven and Man Are One"
Chinese painting attaches importance to conception, and it is particular about forming the concept first before painting. It emphasizes the subjective and objective unity of the artistic image and does not pursue precise resemblance in form; instead, it strives for "the ingenious effect that lies between resemblance and non-resemblance" and "resemblance in non-resemblance." Chinese painting uses unique brush and ink techniques to depict the object and express feeling, and by means of point, line, and surface depicts the shape, framework, texture, light, and the bearing of the object in the painting. The brush and ink serve not only as techniques to depict objects and to convey feelings, but also serve as carriers of the object of painting. At the same time, they, themselves, are a form of connotation, displaying tasteful charm in Chinese calligraphy and possessing unique aesthetic value. Chinese painting emphasizes the fact that the painting and the calligraphy are homologous. Moreover, it pays attention to the character and accomplishment of the artist. In a particular piece of work, particular attention is given to the harmonic combination of poem, calligraphy, painting, and seal. Through writing the poem, preface, and postscript on a painting, the artist expresses his understanding of society, life and, art. These not only enrich the theme of the painting, but also form part of the composition.
Chinese painting reflects the philosophical and aesthetic concepts of the Chinese in its observation, image creation, and expression. In its observation of reality, it adopts the method of seeing what is small from what is big, and from what is small to see what is big. It observes reality in real life or even directly becomes part of the reality, instead of just observing as an outsider or limiting itself to a particular point of view. Even when painting pure natural objects, such as landscapes, flowers, and birds, the artist may also link them with people's social consciousness and aesthetic interest, using the scenes to express feelings or express one's aspirations through depicting a particular object.
Traditional Chinese painting is not only time-honored, but also serves as a mirror to reflect China's traditional arts, demonstrating the Chinese traditional concept of "Heaven and Man are one."