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Inking Innovation


  Text by Xu Encun

  Throughout the history of paintingand even the greater artworld, modernism has existedto innovatively evolve practicespast existing modes and rules. Initially,breakthroughs may only cause little influence.However, quantitative accumulationwill eventually lead to a qualitative leap.This is what has happened to traditionalChinese painting.

  Feng Yuan’s persistent reform oftraditional ink and wash painting is apristine example.

  Since the 1980s, based on his in-depthunderstanding of tradition, Feng has consciouslyisolated his art from traditionalscholarly painting focused on showcasingemotions, broadening his vision by settingsight on the immense real world, whichimbues his art with a sense of unmatchedmagnificence and profundity. He has managedto reawaken the spirit of traditionalChinese culture that advocates the philosophical,unrefined, and immense throughpersistently reforming traditional paintingtechniques, thus forming his own artisticlanguage and method of expression.

  Feng established his macro integrationmethods of painting by studying historicalepics. He extracts formal beauty, aswell as the relations and conversion abilitiesof black and white, from the casualbrushwork of traditional painting. Meanwhile,he absorbs aesthetic elements ofWestern art, such as shapes, dimensions,and structures. His singular artistic taste and aesthetic ideals have made him standout from his counterparts.

  The most noteworthy, perhaps, is howFeng introduces the concept of rationalityto his ink and wash painting. Particularly,his intensification of elements such as philosophy,history, and life makes his workappear more rational and thought-provokingin terms of atmosphere, structure, andart language. Philosophical enlightenmentand rational interest have become importantaesthetic orientations of his art.

  Intuitively, the painter’s accomplishmentsin brushwork are reflected in thechanging forms and structures of his artlanguage. He has endeavored to removeand eliminate traditional painting’s singularityin logical function and symbolicmeaning, but seek ambiguous brushwork,possibilities of expression, diversificationof meaning, and general aesthetics, so as togive full play to his skill and wisdom.

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