Painter and Art Official, Feng Yuan, Says Painting Should Regain Ancient Values

As the nation’s influence continues to grow, Chinese paintings and artists should be valued and grasp the world recognition they deserve, says Feng Yuan, vice-chairman of the China Federation of Literary and Art Circle. He urged “Chinese artists to be brave enough to express their unique and outstanding views on whatever topics through their artwork”.

“Chinese painting, with a long glorious history, has its own value, and I firmly believe it has a value equal with, if not more worthwhile than, Western paintings,” said Feng.

Chinese artists are increasingly featured in international shows, an illustration of increased acceptance of their work. Chinese contemporary art is one of the reflections of China’s enormous transformation over the past few decades.

One example of the flourishing Chinese art market is the 798 gallery district in Beijing, a Bauhaus-style former munitions complex, that has been transformed into the capital’s hottest art center with more than 150 galleries.

Feng views emerging cultural groups as inspired and responsible young people who are brave enough to pursue their own ways of expression.

“You can see how the art tradition has been passed on to the younger generations,” Feng said during his visit to the third Academic Forum of Contemporary Chinese Painting at the Hong Kong Exhibition Center in January.

‘Deeper insight’
Feng’s career as both an artist and art official gives him insight into contemporary Chinese painting. Born in Shanghai in 1952, Feng’s talent manifested itself very early in life. He refined his art through years of self study before enlisting at an art studio in Liaoning province in 1977.

The following year he became a post-graduate student at the prestigious Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts, where he studied painting under the watchful eye of an acknowledged master, Fang Zengxian. From 1987 to 1999, Feng worked in the Chinese Academy of Fine Arts as an art teacher. He went on to become vice-president of the school.

In 1999 he was appointed director of the department of education, science and technology at the Ministry of Culture. He later became director of the arts department at the ministry and in 2004 was appointed curator of the National Art Museum. Since 2005, he has also been vice-chairman of the China Federation of Literary and Art Circle.

Feng said Chinese traditional paintings of landscapes, birds and flowers have been extensively developed, while figure painting has not flourished as much. In recent years, figure painting has taken more varied forms but emphasize patterns and painting techniques. But Feng’s work uses enormous emotional elements along with intense realism.

A new school called “Neoscholar painting” is trying to restore the essence of paintings that ancient scholars and officials had. Feng said that after the Song Dynasty, the cultural foundations of scholarly painting gradually disappeared and government officials and intellectuals came to view art, especially painting, as a type of entertainment or pastime.

‘Tibetan paintings’
Feng has also long had a strong connection to Tibetan painting and culture.

“An increasing number of Tibetan and Han artists in China go deep into the hinterlands of Tibet and show the great progress with their painting brushes, depicting their own experiences, inspiration and artistic vision,” said Feng.

For more than half a century, Tibet has experienced a historical and fundamental change from serfdom to a society with modern civilization, he noted. Paintings on Tibet are developing in the historical context of Tibetan and Han cultures, promoting and complementing each other.

“The efforts of artists from several generations have laid a solid basis for painting works on Tibet – an important subject of fine art and a theme widely presented in the works of many artists,” Feng said.

Entering the new century, the works created by both middle-aged and young artists of Tibetan and Han heritage vividly present the life of various ethnic groups of China in the modern age, Feng said.

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