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October 27, 2009

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Fresh perspective for ink-wash art

PERHAPS only a few exhibitions in China could be compared with the size and status of the national exhibition of traditional and contemporary ink-wash paintings at the Shanghai Exhibition Center this month.

More than 500 ink paintings selected from 1,019 artists around the country are displayed in the "Collection of Chinese Painting Works" from the 11th National Exhibition of Fine Arts.

Held every five years, the national exhibition represents the best works by academicians in different media, such as sculpture, oil, watercolor, print, design and ceramics.

The exhibition is divided into several sections to tour the country, and after a nationwide tour, the collection will be reunited for a grand show in Beijing at the end of this year.

Shanghai is the first stop for the tour of Chinese painting works, which include figure painting, landscapes, flowers and birds, realism, freehand brushwork, and both thin and dense ink-wash paintings.

"We are proud to present the exhibition, which is also the first time in the city," says Shi Dawei, president of Shanghai Artists' Association.

"The works selected for this exhibition represent the achievements, overall level and development trend of traditional Chinese painting during the past five years," he adds.

However, Shi says that under the impact of modernization and globalization, traditional ink-wash painting is on the edge of fading.

Many Chinese people are uninterested in this centuries-old art form that represents the elegance and spirit of Chinese culture, he says.

"That's why we are keen on the future of the traditional Chinese painting, such as its aesthetic taste, humanistic spirit and the language of ink and wash," Shi explains.

This exhibition is actually a manifesto to "announce" that traditional ink-wash brushes can really create modern content in a contemporary mode beyond the expectation of many.

Limitations such as perspective and working with the natural tint of rice paper doesn't hinder the artists' production.

"I am amazed to see that traditional ink-wash paintings could be so subtle and realistic in reflecting modern urban life," says Wu Xiaoting, a 20-something visitor.

It's clear that the future of Chinese ink-wash painting may take a different turn in future, while respecting the disciplines of the craft.

"The charisma and appeal of traditional ink-wash painting should never disappear," Shi adds.

Date: through November 5, 9am-5pm

Venue: Shanghai Exhibition Center, 1000 Yan'an Rd M.


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