Colors of China
Modern Western art began with the realization of complementary colors from the Impressionist paintings, especially with Paul Cézann’s use of color alone to build form, and this was followed by adventurous use of color in paintings, but later Western art tended to focus on single colors of black or white, creating a crisis in painting. Chinese modern painting began with the dialogue between the later works of Bin-Hong Huang and his encounter with impressionism, blending black ink on white paper to create “shadow blacks” and “shadow colors”, but these attempts were not followed by other later artists.
Modern Art continues to reflect Charles Pierre Baudelaire’s view of regaining halo from a brief thing; however, if color by itself is characteristic of a short change, then how can the “halo” be seen again from the most representative phenomenon of color? Reflecting back on the Buddhist ideas of “color as empty space” and “empty space as color”, how can color be a brief phenomenon and yet reveal the eternal truth? Colors in painting express an absolute visuality, so how can colors also express the possibility of retaining the unseen which “cannot be seen”? And how can the halo be revivified to engage the contemporary person with an appealing vision which retains its unseen sense?
It is only in Chinese culture that we find a dichromatic aesthetic system: one is the black and white color of the water ink system, another is the green color of the natural color system. Given classical western chromatics and aesthetics, the established color palette and complementary colors used in Impressionism and the later Abstractionist use of single colors in painting, what contribution can contemporary Chinese painting make to a unique color system experience? This is the core theme of this exhibition.
Contemporary Korean art has already established its “Monochrome Movement (Danseakhwa)”. Contemporary Chinese art has also already revealed its own painting aesthetic sense, which uses ink black as the base for a traditional Chinese black and off-white presence, traversing time through color, and creating a blurred patina color, which is the new “Chinese color”. The basic aesthetic characteristics of this new creation are: 1. It looks like black and white, but in fact is traditional Chinese black and off-white, thus overcoming the threat of western single color painting. 2. Infra-mince colors: virtual colors, which are light and transparent. 3. Color in ink and ink in color: hidden colors and mixtures. 4. Patina colors: accumulating the possibilities of time to create a Sung style pottery like jade quality sense of feel. 5. Mixed colors: not mere single colors, but blending to create perfectly unique and transparent clarity. 6. Uniting the sense of light and energy: the colored halo glow and soft plasticity allow mutual integration, with a weakening sense of monochromatic light and deeper blend. 7. Natural colors: neither color nor the absence or color, and which also reflect a halo of natural colors.
Among the artists participating in this Exhibition, they all have their own unique contributions to the use of color and chromatics: Liang Shaoji weaves silk to create “Pure Zen Silk” with a touch of translucent jade. Cao Jigang’s works reflect the absorption of prints on silk and erosion of stone works in arust green patina color through time. Liu Guofu’s works reflect a layered transparent deep green jade color. Sang Huoyao’s works provide a fine and rich jade color. Jiang Ji’an’s paintings include a vibrant peppery red color and demure tea colors. Chen Guangwu’s yin and yang calligraphy allows white to take flight and deep black of ancient rubbings. Tian Wei’s works present a horizon where white light meets shimmering gold, hinting the notion of the coming salvation of the world. Ye Jianqing’s works create an ambiance of black ink smudges and light clouds swinging, with the paintings revealing Infra-White and Infra-Green senses.
These artists’ works express natural ambiance, integrating energy and light with glance of the afterimage, creating a new virtual lightness of color, a new vocabulary of shadow and color in painting, which is a truly new “Colors of China”.
Dr. Xia Kejun