Ink Paintings: Existence and Transcendence
--A Review of Jizis Art（three ）
3. Progressive Levels of Transcendental Paintings
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)
Ink Paintings: Existence and Transcendence
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.
--A Review of Jizis Art（two）
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.
2. Learning from Western Art, While Keeping the Spirit of Chinese Art as the Substance
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.
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.
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).
www.163888.com， 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.