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April 29, 2011

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Home » Feature » Art and Culture

Big and powerful ink wash

POWERFUL, outsized works by traditional ink-wash master Long Rui are awe-inspiring and suitable for palaces or huge lobbies of five-star hotels. They are on exhibit at the National Art Museum in Beijing through May 3.

"I think now it is a critical time to rethink the direction and aesthetic value of Chinese art," says the 65-year-old veteran landscape painter and former director of the prestigious Chinese Painting Academy.

The exhibition, organized by the Ministry of Culture, features his large works created over the past two years.

Long, a native of Sichuan Province, was tutored by masters Li Keran (1907-1989) and Huang Binhong (1865-1955) and has had a profound influence on Chinese painting. Long was among the first to emphasize the basics of traditional ink-wash painting. His approach has been described as "to strengthen the root and foster the source."

Chinese art should always be rooted in its own tradition and history, he says.

"In the 1980s, with flood of various Western thoughts and art forms, some Chinese called for a total overhaul of traditional Chinese art," he recalls. "I also tried some experimental paintings at that time, but gradually I realized that the revolution in traditional ink-wash paintings is not a thorough abandoning of the past. It is the pursuit of the core and spirit of culture."

Long frequently travels around the country and visits the West on sketching trips.

Shang Hui, a renowned art critic, calls Long's works "very daunting and impressive."

"Long has a rare capacity and is swift in controlling big tableau. I once witnessed Long completing a 7-meter-long scroll on his table without taking a break," he says.

It is usually said that qi or life force in traditional ink-wash painting is difficult to achieve in large-scale works.

Long is an exception and his overwhelming works, some 2x5 meters, are bursting with controlled energy and some use vivid color.

"That's the impressive part of Long's work," says Liang Jiang, vice director of the Chinese Painting Academy. "I've always said Long's paintings are perfect to hang in a palace or the lobby of a five-star hotel, since his work radiates strong energy and vibrancy."

His landscapes are not poetic or romantic, but grand and masculine.

"I am not simply painting the external beauty of the landscapes," says Long.

"Instead, I want to establish the spiritual garden of Chinese culture, that's the essence of my art. Maybe that's why some people say they find the undying spirit of the Chinese nation in my work."

In addition to Chinese landscapes, Long also depicts Western landscapes and buildings, such as a towering cathedral against a dark blue sky.

"Viewers may find a different ambience. Art has many possibilities. I wanted to have a try and some Chinese brush strokes can only produce Chinese scenes," he says.

Date: through May 3, 9am-4pm,

Address: 1 Wusidajie, Dongchen District, Beijing


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