1.An Analytic Inheritor of Traditional Chinese Ink Painting
Ink Paintings: Existence and Transcendence
At this time, Jizi changed his studio name to The Determined Studio, and continued his profound exploration. These explorations finalized in the experimental paintings that became the artistic expression known as the Tao of Ink Landscapes. The dictum for Jizis The Not Easy Studio was: It is not easy for those who know the difficulties, but there are many who, because they know the difficulties, lower their expectations. It is thus especially not easy to know the difficulties but still not lower ones expectations. Thus for one who does not lower his expectations but instead makes them definite, then such a person is really noble, and this nobility represented that profound spiritual essence necessary to advance Jizis art.
--A Review of Jizis Art
3. Progressive Levels of Transcendental Paintings
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.
In a comprehensive view of the course of his art and his artworks, we see that the artistic realm that Jizi was seeking in his brush and ink landscapes belonged to the same category as the works of the contemporary artists Qian Songyan and Song Wenzhi (mentioned above). The originality of Jizis snow and ice landscapes is that he understood the weak points of classical landscape painting in displaying snowy mountains and frozen peaks, and hence created such special techniques as the rough, choppy, slanting, and hollow brush methods for showing the textures of snow and ice. These two kinds of artworks, Jizis brush and ink landscapes and his snow and ice landscapes, however, formed a solid foundation for Jizi to proceed to explore his Tao of Ink Landscapes. Because his Tao of Ink Landscapes were not just an extension of his brush and ink landscapes, but in particular were the expressive techniques he used in the snow and ice landscapes, they incorporated inner elements that made for unique modeling, and captured the snow and ice landscapes emphasis on expressing the artists heartfelt sentiments. By means of expanding his thinking and restructuring and modifying the configuration of the paintings, moreover, Jizi sought to reproduce a painting that surpassed merely showing an image.
--A Review of Jizis Art（three ）
Translator: E. F. Connelly, PhD
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.
In summarizing his own artistic process, Mr. Jizi divided his creativity into three progressive genres: continuation, rebirth, and pioneering. By the continuation genre, Jizi means that, on the basis of continuing traditional painting, and by means of deeply investigating life in order to make progress in sketching, while at the same time consulting the works of contemporary artists of merit, he obtained a profound understanding of painting, and gradually formed his own brush and ink style. Using a familiar adage to sum this up, we can say that Jizi: continued the traditional but was not confined by tradition, deeply investigated life to blend the strong points of different artists, and so formed his own style. What Jizi was seeking in this genre was to use his own skills with brush and ink to express real mountains and real streams, that is the mountains and the scenes that one sees with ones eyes. These belong to the category of scenery that one already sees physically and emotionally, and the basic spirit is Realism.
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.
By the pioneering genre, Jizi means that conceptually he wanted to go beyond the physical realm that simply shows images, and advance to the metaphysical realm. In this genre, the artist wants his creations to express the universal spirit of the Tao that is beyond the image, but obtained from what the Tao encompasses. To accomplish this, the artist collects all the images - the abstract, the concrete, and the mental - and gives them a macro realization that has a unified, music like effect. In order to obtain this goal, the artist must proceed with a full range of exploration and creation from thought to framework, from technique to expression, and other such aspects of painting. The creative spirit in this genre is described variously as: a pure mind glimpsing the Tao, a pure mind getting the sense of an object, using the Tao to discuss art, and using art to embody the Tao; and seeking method and image from the Tao. What the artist is seeking in this genre is to transcend just showing the features of mountains and streams in order to realize the materialization of the realm of Tao, that is to paint mountains and scenes in the Tao.
Due to the fact that the theory of Chinese painting most definitely does not take the ability to paint as the measure of a paintings value, but rather evaluates a painting by the level of its spiritual meaning, so for this reason the theory of realms, that is the realm a painting attains, is a special feature of Chinese art theory. The contemporary artist and critic Mr. Zong Baihua (1897-1986), when discussing realms in Chinese painting, has said: Why are Chinese artists not satisfied with purely objective, mechanical drawings? Because the realm of Chinese painting is not a single plane of natural reproduction but rather the creation of realms of painting, with each realm having a deeper level. In all, there are three levels: the drawing of an object as directly perceived through the visual sense; the conveying of the dynamism of life; and the revealing of the highest spiritual realm. (Zong Baihua The Birth of Realms in the Visual Arts)
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.
For several decades Mr. Jizi persevered in his explorations. In the early years, he called his own little corner of the world such names as The Bitter Blue Studio, and The Studio for Chanting in the Withering Cold, and hence we realize just how difficult it was for him in the beginning. It was just in this bitter cold period that he assiduously studied previous artists, establishing a solid foundation in traditional painting. From the end of the 1960s, he began to explore his own style. He worked during the day while at night he calmed his mind in order to delve into art, but it was a difficult time nonetheless. At the beginning of the 1970s, he started from personal experience and called his corner of the world The Not Easy Studio. It was just in these difficult circumstances that his explorations took shape as ink and brush landscapes painted in his own style. He continued his own style creating his manifestations of the frozen ice and fluttering snows of the North Country, the biting cold and tragic majesty of the Yan Mountain ice and snow landscapes. At the end of the 1980s, following the impact of the rise of business in China, one by one artists began to engage in business, but Jizi continued to abide by the ancient Taoist precepts of extreme emptiness and guarded quietude (i.e. remaining unperturbed by what others do and concentrating instead on quietly honing a skill).
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.
By the rebirth genre, Jizi means using principally his own sentiments in order to create an expressive realm that surpasses Realism. In order to achieve this goal, Jizi had to break through the techniques of previous artists, and proceed to explore and create the breaking of new artistic ground. His creative spirit in this genre was, in the words of Shi Tao: from the depths of my heart, using my own abilities, I will decide how to use the brush and how to apply the ink. What Jizi was seeking in this genre was not a pure, objective reproduction but rather the ability to paint a creative realm of the mountains and scenes in ones mind that belong to the category known as having ones mind set in a profound artistic mood. In this genre, the artists individuality is particularly distinctive and the basic spirit is Romanticism. While this genre is close in several aspects to Expressionism, it still remains in the category of conventional, rational painting.
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.
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.
Ink Paintings: Existence and Transcendence
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.
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
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.
Author: Yu Fan
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.
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.