Mr. Jizis artworks are primarily ink and brush landscapes that not only seek to create novel forms but also strive to achieve a transcendent realm that induces deep contemplation.
From the perspective of a comparison of Eastern and Western art, it would seem that Western modern painting and Chinas traditional literati art have many points in common. As we previously stated, Chinas traditional literati ink drawings put more emphasis on expressing the spirit of the subject, described as finding the source for paintings in your mind, and a painter paints with his mind.
As I have said previously, it is only in a few aspect that we can say that Chinese classical painting lacks rationality, and we absolutely cannot characterize Chinese painting as relatively more perceptual than rational. Traditional Chinese painting did not strive for a strict reproduction of actual objects, and did not develop scientific modeling rules in depth. The birds and flowers of the Northern Song Painting Academy are, of course, realistic, but they uniformly incurred the negation of the literatis aesthetic judgments, a negation that brought about a priori defects in forming rational shapes in Chinese painting.
As the saying goes, one who criticizes the inherited tradition has to capture its essence while discarding its dregs, but how to capture and discard differs for each individual. In Jizis case, he used his own thoughts on culture and philosophy and his unremitting exploration and practice to convey specifically his own personal ideas about what should be captured and what should be discarded. The cultural value of what Jizi captured and discarded, aligned with and decided for the rational trend and transcendent essence of his artistic spirit, while at the same time, it provided a unique and special reference to answer the question of how best to inherit traditional art.
--A Review of Jizis Art（two）
Author: Yu Fan
At the end of the 1960s, Jizi borrowed from a friend Takashima Hokkais (1850-1931) The Essential Method for Drawing Mountains, translated into Chinese by the artist and critic Fu Baoshi (1904-1965). Jizi was immediately convinced by the books incisive arguments, scientific analysis, and the large number of sketches included therein. He read the book carefully, repeatedly trying to fathom it, finally realizing that, since he could not engrave it in his mind, or even keep it in his hands, he immediately copied out the whole book, and even conscientiously traced the more than one hundred illustrated drawings in the book. This one volume of The Essential Method for Drawing Mountains had a profound impact on Jizi, as it laid out for him a solid way to conduct field sketches. Mr. Jizi said: Recognizing the principles that create mountains and streams from the aspects of geology and topography, and grasping the shapes of mountain ranges and rushing streams was for an artist just like studying the anatomy of nature: my mind understood it, and my painting hand followed. Mr. Takashimas book is a volume on the anatomy of mountains and streams. It is just this kind of scientific knowledge that is not only rooted in experience but at the same time also theoretical that took Jizi into the wilds of Yan Mountain and the middle of Tai Xing Mountain to make sketches. This knowledge also caused him to take the fine points of using ink and brush from contemporary artists Li Keran (1907-1989), Qian Songyan (1899-1985), and Song Wenzhi (1919-1999) that gradually became his own individual style of ink and brush landscape painting. Absorbing the scientific principles for creating shapes enriched the rational factors in Jizis art works.
This admiration for the unaffected category clearly shows that the literati painting aesthetic had become established. This aesthetic negates brightness and colors, advocating instead simplicity and elegance, and it also negates deliberately seeking to make the painting similar to its subject, advocating instead obtaining the essence and forgetting the image. This aesthetic negates the depiction of worldly relationships, advocating instead a poetic lyricism, and it negates meticulous portraiture, advocating instead a calligraphic brush style. Painters added seal inscriptions, and they gradually emphasized displaying lyricism, creating a poetic mood, and seeking after the appeal of brush and ink.
Jizi not only proceeded to probe deeply into ways to absorb the requirements for scientific modeling and shaping, at the same time he also absorbed the Western means of expressing shapes with two dimensional segments, and used this to advance the artistic sense of volume and bulk. Jizi absorbed Western classical paintings use of profound understatement to process images and to increase a macroscopic and farsighted sense of mass. Simultaneously, Jizi was also absorbing Japans Higashiyama Kaiis ability to express rich colors in simple objects and his contrast of blacks and whites in print making that strengthened the macroscopic effect of color composition. These provided Jizi an effective guarantee to express the connotations of majesty, depth, and solemnity in his shapes. We can see that Jizi, in his absorption of elements of Western art, made a completely rational analysis of the pros and cons of Chinese traditional art.
We can see here that traditional Chinese painting did not blindly deny the creation of forms but rather wanted to excel on the basis of the interplay between heart and hand, rising up to the level where one draws circles and squares without a ruler or compass, and puts energy into the colors and not remaining at the level where one is a draftsman seeking to become an artist. In view of this rational nature of Chinese painting, it is inadequate to link Chinese painting with a lack of scientific rules for modeling.
In the Tang Dynasty, Zhang Yanyuan (mid ninth century) said this about using the brush for calligraphy and painting: Conserve the spirit, concentrate on what is unique, use appropriate skills, and make use of (the Tang Dynasty painter) Wu Shengs brush methods. All techniques that reach the sublime follow this method. Why stop (at the painter wielding the brush), the (ancient) butcher Bao Ding wielding his knife and the Master Carpenter wielding his carpenters square even achieved this sublimity. During the Qing Dynasty, Shi Tao, in his book Quotations on Art, explained in detail his thoughts on Putting passion into the brush and ink, and availing yourself of mountains and streams to represent the Tao. Shi Tao used his uniqueness theory of painting to develop a thesis that he later summarized by saying: The artist responsible for art, who manages to create life from chaos, who uses his artistic uniqueness to bring order to the myriad of things, and the myriad of things to express that uniqueness, such an artist is not responsible for painting mountains, waters, for wielding brush and ink, for old and new art, or for the sages; no, that artist is responsible solely for his artistic creativity. In his book On the Art of Painting, Shi Tao pointed out that: The uniqueness of painting has no other ultimate than the Tao of Heaven and Earth. Shi Taos discussions on painting fully embodied the concept of using art to intuit the Tao, and they became the classic summary of the spirit and essence of traditional literati paintings.
After several decades of practicing art, Mr. Jizi forged his own independent thinking, and did a nuanced analysis of intellectual artistic qualities. From his own personal realization, Jizi gained a penetrating grasp of the transcendental spirit of purifying the mind to glimpse the Tao, and using painting to reveal the Tao. Jizi followed the aesthetic objective of using a brush that spotlights and captures an image to paint a painting cherished by all. Jizis relentless pursuit of artistic exploration was the foundation for his art form the Tao of Ink Landscapes, and also the basis for his internal thinking about his own line of succession to traditional art.
As an artist striving to develop Chinese painting, the entry point for assimilating Western art is first to start with introducing scientific modeling aspects. The development of Chinese painting in recent times strongly bears strong testimony to this point. Although the Tang artist Zhang Zaos maxim to Learn about painting from natures creations, but find the source for paintings in your mind, dates from the Tang Dynasty, it has since then been the motto for Chinese painting. Due to the fact that Zhang Zao himself did not leave a detailed explanation of this maxim, however, those who came after him held flexible opinions as to what the maxim means. Learn about paintings from natures creations has thus been interpreted variously to mean: seek the subject of a paintings appearance, spiritual essence, power, substance, natural appearance, or spiritual enjoyment. Zhangs maxim has also been taken to mean understanding the subject of a painting in depth and with sophistication. In short, to learn about painting from natures creations is made the basis for painting what one desires.
1.An Analytic Inheritor of Traditional Chinese Ink Painting
Since recent times, there has been a great many analytical theorists discussing the differences between Chinese and Western art. These discussions clearly show that recognizing and summarizing the different features of both Western and Chinese art and, via a mastery of both, reaching a thorough understanding of both, is not only beneficial to the development of Chinas national culture but also an issue that China must always face. Recently, in connection with the differences between Chinese and Western painting, some theorists have concluded: Western art is rational; Chinese art, perceptual. Western art is influenced by scientific thinking, while Chinese art is edified by a cultural energy. Chinese art, in comparison to Western art, possesses more cultural value. (The view of Mr. Ye Zi). This type of criticism, with respect to understanding Chinese and Western classical paintings, has without doubt a certain broad significance. Nevertheless, this criticism also has its inaccuracies. The tendency of Western art to be influenced by scientific thinking is essentially an expression of a type of rationalist spirit and, while we cannot say that this rationalist spirit is not cultural as well, we most assuredly cannot say that it lacks cultural value. We also cannot generalize that Chinese painting by comparison is perceptual. Actually, Chinese and Western art belong to two different cultural systems, each of which expresses different concepts of cultural values and two different cultural spirits.
It is well known that Chinas traditional landscape painting started in the eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420). From the Tang (618-907) to the Song (960-1279) Dynasties, traditional landscape painting had established itself as primarily a literati painting aesthetic. As it developed during the Yuan (1271-1368) and Ming (1368-1644) Dynasties, traditional landscape painting gradually became a complete set of literati painting norms. Early in the Tang Dynasty, the literati assessed paintings via the four categories of spirited (shen), subtle (miao), competent (neng), and unaffected (yi) (i.e. without artificiality). During the Song Dynasty, the Northern Song scholar and art historian, Huang Xiufu, rearranged these four categories making the unaffected, a category that remains aloof from convention, the highest category. Huang explained: The unaffected category is the most difficult to grasp. It clumsily draws squares and circles, and looks down on minute use of colors. The brushwork is simple but the forms complete, and they are obtained naturally. It cannot be imitated because it is intentional, and one who sees it will exclaim it: an unaffected work.
The purpose of this essay is to interpret the explorations and practices of Jizis art, to analyze the processes and ideas in his art, and to comment on Jizis artistic practices by clarifying the following four aspects: what Jizi inherited from traditional Chinese ink painting, what he learned from western paintings, how he gradually transcended these paintings, and how he created the Tao of Ink Landscapes, with a view to exploring the significance and possibilities of the Tao of Ink Landscapes
Chinese art is an art with a strong assimilative nature, and its development and advance is pioneered in an integrative mix. It was just in view of this special feature of the spirit of Chinese art that Jizi, in his explorations, did not blindly follow the forms of modern Western schools of painting. Rather, Jizi analyzed and borrowed from modern Western schools of painting based on the inner necessities for developing Chinese art. Or we can say that, after making a comparison of modern Western schools of painting and Chinese traditional painting, Jizi absorbed their most beneficial components and used these to search for and create his own art. Specifically, he made a comparison of the Expressionists emphasis on conveying subjective feelings and Chinas expression of ones heartfelt feelings to strengthen the awareness of expressing his own emotions.
How to learn from and assimilate Western art has since modern times been a question explored in a variety of ways. Generally speaking, however, no matter how China assimilates the strong points of Western art, Chinese painting must not lose its essential characteristics. That Chinese painting must possess its own national characteristics is a basic consensus reached in scholarly circles. For this reason, every artist who strives to develop and innovate Chinese painting must profoundly research the pros and cons of Chinas traditional art, and make a comparison of the height of cultural development in Chinese art and to the advances in Western art in order to take the spirit of Chinese art as the substance while assimilating the strong points of Western art via analysis and discernment. This comparison thus advances an exploration that both continues tradition and opens up new ground. Only in this way can artists successfully blaze a new trail of innovation for Chinese painting.
Ink Paintings: Existence and Transcendence
Up until recent times when Western studies entered China, only then did some young people break through tradition and start to learn from the West. This occurred especially during the May Fourth Movement (1919) when Chen Duxiu (1879-1942) was the first to advocate the spirit of realistic painting in order to transform a dispirited Chinese art. Those who answered Chens call, such as Xu Beihong (1895-1953) and other artists who were members of the Reform School, advocated Western arts use of models to learn drawing, and these reform artists made gratifying achievements. Even more important was the period after the establishment of the Peoples Republic in 1949 when the ideology of artistic realism occupied a prominent position, resulting in many contemporary Chinese artists treading the path of deepening their life experiences and changing their painting methods by the use of drawings. This created a generation of Chinese artists who reached significant milestones. They strengthened the rational characteristics of Chinese painting and pushed Chinese painting to a new genre of development.
As the inheritor of traditional art, there is another important aspect of the tradition that Jizi discerningly discovered: the connotations of the transcendental spirit that permeates the ideas of Chinas traditional literati paintings. As we all know, using a text to carry the Tao, and using a painting to reveal the Tao are the highest realms to which Chinas ink paintings have always aspired. Early in the creation of landscape painting in the period of the Northern and Southern Dynasties (220-589), the scholar and artist Zong Bing (375-443) expounded his ideas that landscape painting uses shapes to entice the Tao; landscape painting reaches the joy of benevolence (ren) and wisdom (zhi), and frees the spirit. Zong Bing also said: Only when one purifies his mind can one glimpse the Tao, and then (by means of looking at landscape paintings) one can travel even when confined. Zong Bings contemporary, Wang Wei, also advocated using a brush to imitate the substance of the Tao.
Shi Taos thoughts on painting appeared enlightened to his contemporaries, and served to correct the reverence for antiquity advocated by the four landscape painters of the early Qing Dynasty, namely Wang Shimin (1642-1715), Wang Hui (1632-1717), Wang Jian (1598-1677), and Wang Yuanqi (1642-1715), known collectively as the Four Wangs. Shi Taos statement that an artist should search for the most unusual peaks and then start painting ran counter to the Four Wangs reverence for antiquity, but was widely disseminated among artists. Due to the limitations of the period, however, Shi Taos ideas on painting did not lead to the establishment of a scientific method for creating forms. The Four Wangs and their reverence for antiquity continued adversely to influence Qing Dynasty art circles.
In his early years, Mr. Jizi strived to study and learn the many aspects of traditional landscape painting. In one respect, he is the inheritor of the good points of traditional literati painting: not only did he earnestly study the verdant greens of the brush and ink technique of the Dong Yuan (died 962) and Ju Ran (907-960) Southern School of landscape painting, intuiting the expression of a poeticized artistic mood, but also he strove to learn calligraphy and seal carving as well. In another respect, because of a personality preference, Jizi was partial to the great patterns and the imposing manner of the Northern Sung panoramic landscapes, and even more fond of the dense and vast styles of the Song Dynasty painter Huang Gongwang (1269-1354) and the Yuan Dynasty painter Wang Meng (1308-1385). Jizi did not advocate hasty, unaffected brush work or impromptu brush splashes, and he most certainly did not advocate painting a few slipshod brush strokes that inscribe the whole piece with written characters; and this was no doubt the initial germination of a fine sense of awareness of artistic independence. After five or six years of hard work, in 1964, Jizi painted the Tang poet Meng Haoran (691-740) in a painting titled Meng Haoran Passing an Old Friends Village. This painting prominently displayed the features of traditional landscape painting that Jizi, as its inheritor, had both discarded and retained, and also displayed his solid grounding in the skills of traditional landscape painting.
Translator: E. F. Connelly, PhD
2. Learning from Western Art, While Keeping the Spirit of Chinese Art as the Substance
--A Review of Jizis Art
Ink Paintings: Existence and Transcendence
Throughout Jizis learning from and absorbing of Western painting, no matter whether it was ancient or modern paintings, all had the spirit of Chinese culture as the essential and were analyzed to determine what to keep and what to discard. He merged the beneficial elements of Western painting, not because he wanted to reform Chinese painting, but because he wanted to develop Chinese painting, he wanted to create new techniques of expression for Chinese painting, and he wanted to explore new ways to express space in Chinese painting.
From the end of the 1950s, Mr. Jizi began to cultivate assiduously the fertile field of Chinas landscape art. For what has now been more than fifty years, Mr. Jizi studied traditional landscape art to achieve his own style. He explored a new technique for painting landscapes that produced his snow and ice landscapes, and then began pursuing and exploring a new artistic form that the artist himself calls the Tao of Ink Landscapes, an artistic form that strives to find ways to express space in landscape paintings that refine the realms of expression in landscape paintings.
The literati painting style integrated poetry, calligraphy, painting, and seal carving. From the simple, light paintings of Ni Yunlin (1301-1374) to the splashes of Xu Tingteng (1521-1593), the brilliance of the Tang and Northern Song periods gradually faded, and the original but not quite fully matured rules for realism in modeling gradually lost the conditions necessary for their in-depth development. This made the insufficiency of the rational spirit in Chinas traditional literati paintings a defect that became even more pronounced after the influential Yuan Dynasty painter and calligrapher Zhao Mengfu (1254-1322) declared: What we value in painting is the old conception. If there is no old conception, even if the painting is skillful, it has no value, and this led to the common practice of literati painters esteeming the old. The Ming Dynasty painter and scholar, Dong Qichangs (1555-1636) famous remark about reading thousands of books and traveling thousands of miles was actually taken to mean just viewing thousands of old paintings. Right up until the first four emperors of the Qing dynasty, imitating the ancients was held in high esteem, causing literati painters to become even further removed from naturalness, and to come to the end of their road. Accordingly, when the Qing painter Shi Tao (1642-1707) advocated for nature oriented painting, the emergence of the type of artistic thinking that produced Shi Taos masterpiece Searching Among the Peaks (painted in 1691), shook the world of Chinese painting like an earthquake.
Only in the early Qing Dynasty did Shi Tao in his Quotations on Art attribute the following three specifics to Zhangs maxim to learn about painting from natures creations. First, seek a rational method, maintain the ability to reproduce nature, study in depth the objects raison dtre, and make every effort to paint its true condition. Shi Taos following statements are fundamental to rationality and method: A painter is one who knows the shapes and forms of the myriad of things in the world. When the mountain peak and the method for showing its shades and textures agree, then the painting method produces the mountain peak. If one does not know the peak, then how can one transform (it into a painting), and if one does not have the method for showing the peaks shades and textures, then how can one make the peak appear (in a painting). Second, seek the essence of the form to complete the principles of Yin and Yang. Shi Tao stated: The uniqueness of my painting is that it penetrates both the form and essence of mountains and streams. Again, The painter bares the soul of mountains, streams, and the myriad of things, because the painter has the power to nurture life. And again, If the ink cannot introduce vitality, then the brush cannot paint the essence; when both the ink and brush are able, then the the Yin and the Yang are freed; when the hand creates from chaos, then conveying both the ancient and the modern into one work is the result of wisdom. Third, combine Heaven and man to seek your individuality. Shi Tao said: Who paints the changes to all under Heaven has a great method and is among the elite who can paint the forms of mountains and streams. Those painters and molders who created things both in ancient and present times, they passed smoothly over the principles of Yin and the Yang, taking hold of the ink and brush to paint the myriad of things between Heaven and earth, training and teaching themselves. Shi Tao also said: To establish his spirit in the sea of ink, and to create life at the tip of his brush, to paint rich content within a small area, to bring order out of chaos, the artist, even if there is no brush or ink or painting, persists in his art. And again: As for a mountain and a stream having me represent them, the mountains and streams are created by me and I am created by the mountains and streams; our spirits encounter each other and art is made. Shi Taos statements can be taken as the best explanation of learning about painting from natures creations.
With regard to the reality of Chinese paintings, however, the paintings pay attention to the shape of objects and use appropriate colors. We cannot say that a deep understanding of artistic principles and a clever use of artistic skills is not an expression of a rationalist spirit. Of the four criteria for criticizing paintings, three, namely ability, subtlety, and spirituality, are without doubt descriptions of painting lifelike forms. These three describe paintings that contain both form and energy, have a lively spirit, and steadily attain critical standards. This is a steadily advancing process whereby the artist first acquires skill, then draws, first seeking the shape and then seeking the likeness; and finally, obtaining the essence and forgetting the form, the artist seeks a method beyond methodology, and achieves a surpassingly free and natural style.
With the theory of simulated reproduction, modern art has come to a dead end, and is now evincing an innovative attitude that challenges traditional art. From Romanticism to Expressionism, from Abstractionism to Surrealism, all of these movements have stressed that a simple reproduction of objective images is most definitely not the goal of art. These movements all advocate full expression of subjective emotions, paintings that are lyrical, paintings that express a persons subconscious dreams, and so on. These movements assure us that there is something more important in art than visual reality. There is also an inspiring dynamic that moves people in a way that visual reality cannot. These movements have much in common with Chinese arts not seeking strict shapes, its opposition to being a draftsman rather than an artist, and its advocation of expressing ones feelings. The difference between these movements and Chinese art is this: the eternal truth of Chinese art, namely the Learning about painting from natures creations, but finding the source for paintings in your mind, this rather simple but yet profound statement, confirms that Chinese art will neither go to the extreme of becoming the very image of nature nor to the extreme of being an expression of pure subjectivity.
If we examine Jizis journey as an artist, his inherent relationship with Chinas classical tradition of painting is: first, Jizi chose a magnificent, bold style and then promoted the rational factors in traditional painting. Jizi learned to express a poeticized realm in his paintings, and sought to express lyricism. Out of respect for stele calligraphy, Jizi diligently practiced this calligraphy with brush and ink. Finally, Jizi carried forward traditional paintings development of purifying the mind to glimpse the Tao, and the spiritual meaning of using painting to realize the Tao; and concluded with explorations that resulted in the unique appearance of his Tao of Ink Landscapes.
Chinas traditional literati paintings, however, are not simply expressions of the subjects emotions, but rather they are a kind of expression of transcendence that uses a brush to embody the Tao, and that goes beyond the external appearance to obtain what that appearance encircles. This transcendence has certain points in common with Western modern schools of painting such as Expressionism, Abstractionism, and Surrealism, but it also has essential differences. We all know that, since the Renaissance, the systems of modeling that have been constructed have played an important role in the development of art. Nevertheless, when one type of art reaches its peak, then it can start to go the opposite way. Strict scientific modeling eventually leads to art that is a superb virtual reproduction but, in the deliberate pursuit of visual reality, it weakens and restrains the display of an artists thoughts and feelings, eventually causing art to descend into a type of rigid, academic model, resulting in artists rebelling against this simulationism.
Jizi made a comparison of the Abstractionists structural rules, and searched to convey a musical effect. He also searched for grand music and the harmony of Heaven and Earth to strengthen his awareness of using modification and reconstruction to express a musical effect. He distinguished and compared Surrealisms seeking to express mans subconscious and his dream worlds with Chinas seeking the realm where Heaven and man are one; a realm where a pure mind glimpses the Tao, strengthens ones awareness of the universe, and defines ones transcendent seeking for the goal of expressing the spirit of the universal Tao. At this point, Jizis seeking a musical effect penetrated his learning and thinking about the three aspects just mentioned. In his Concerning the Spiritual in Art, Wassily Kadinsky wrote: Music is just the kind of art that expresses both the artists soul and the independent life that creates music, for music is not the replication of natural phenomena. And again: When he is anxious to have art express his spiritual life, a painter who is not satisfied with reproducing life and nature cannot help but envy music - the one art that at present lacks substance but unexpectedly and easily achieves this goal of expressing an artists spiritual life. The artist then involuntarily uses musical methods in his own art (page 30). Mr. Jizis explorations of the Tao of Ink Landscapes quite similarly uses an untitled musical composition mode to express his own intuition of the spirit of the universal Tao, and to express a transcendent feeling that is noble, solemn, sublime, and profound.
Mr. Jizi started his specialization in landscape painting in the 1950s, during the period of reform in Chinese painting. After he possessed the requisite traditional sills, he proceeded from Shi Taos advocacy of reform, and smoothly and logically started out on the road of facing life, transforming his art via sketching and drawing, and gradually forming his own artistic style. He started first by making a complete study of Shi Taos Quotations on Art, determined to enter into traditional art on a rational basis, and also come out from traditional art on a rational basis. He consolidated his experiences and attempted techniques to express scenes of northern China. Because he lacked the foundation of experience in actually making drawings in northern China, however, initially he was of course not successful. He also went to the north to attempt to paint from nature there, but he could not get free of the antique ways of using brush strokes to show the shades and textures of rocks and mountains.