Traditional Chinese Painting: A Firm Pillar of Chinese History

Traditional Chinese Painting: A Firm Pillar of Chinese History

Sevilla, Micah S.

February 7, 2017

 

Cascading into gallery walls which hung lovely frames and sophisticated fans  brimming with Chinese virtuosity and oriental philosophies made a nostalgic sweep creep up on my spine; as if the vintage-looking, nature-inspired sights of gray, misty mountains, vigorous little birds perching on tall bamboo shoots,  blurred, snowy village landscapes, youthful pop of hydrangea flowers, fresh pink peonies, dancing yellow tulips, cozy chickens cooped up in a barn, poised cocks standing straight as an arrow atop a rock,  and highly-animated roosters,  were taking me to a trip down memory lane that made me fantasize in an instant; as if I was standing at the imperial court of the Song Dynasty, dressed up in a red, highly-embellished Chinese kimono, completely basking in all of China’s rich cultural heritage.

 

For some strange reason, there was automatically an unspoken “oriental” connection dawning on me as I gaze at the painting gallery from a fair distance, an unspeakable affirmation that tells me that the exhibit was wholly Chinese, without any foreign parentage involved.  In any setting and in any format, Chinese art is always highly-distinctive compared to other cultural arts, even in comparison with its close-knitted, chinky-eyed brothers from the East Asia, such as Korea and Japan. A unique, ethereal charm of the incomparable Chinese antiquity beholds the array of paintings, and made them affluent to each other. That sense of antiquity imbibed me as I feast on the multi-themed exhibit, reminiscing the past I can’t concretely picture on my mind, yet my heart and soul feels something that deeply resonates within me. Painting appreciation is definitely a navigation of one’s very soul, an emotional and spiritual connection that reveals the inner thoughts and deep-seated values of man. Certainly, I’m neither a Chinese nor a painter; but simply allowing myself to get lost in the painters’ intricate artworks gave me a saturating peace that assured me of my belongingness to the oriental culture. To me, this is definitely part of the Chinese skeleton that deserves to be celebrated every Chinese New Year, a long-enduring art form that knows no alienation to race or nationality.

 

Shangri-La Plaza’s Grand Atrium was momentarily a haven of divinity and repose, atleast for a week- as painting enthusiasts from Ateneo de Manila University’s Confucius Institute show off their most-prized paintings in various styles, frames and sizes from January 25-31, in response to the Chinese tradition of displaying artworks only on special occasions, such as the Chinese New Year festivity. The painters, who were all well-advanced in age, study traditional Chinese painting under the mentorship of Master Painter Caesar Cheng, a connoisseur of painting and calligraphy for over four decades by now. Given that the painters involved were pretty much preoccupied with their marketing and business ventures, most of them only get to the exhibit on its last day during the mall’s closing hours, when all they have to do is pull out their paintings from the gallery and prepare to store their craft at home.

 

As scion to precision and creativity, the Chinese culture is not only world-renowned for their ink and wash paintings, but also a pioneer in poetry and calligraphy, pushing forth their culture to a natural inclination to the visual arts. As a matter of fact, every traditional Chinese is raised to train in the arts at a very young age, with parents weaning their children to be competitive in both performing arts and visual arts, such as playing instruments and doing calligraphy.

 

Dating back to the 1st century A.D, the introduction of Buddhism to China led to the popularity of painting religious murals related to Buddhist principles, with themes expanding to a variety of subjects beyond religion only until the Song dynasty. Chinese painting has turned into a firm pillar of culture in China since then, evolving from an imperial hobby to being a serious form of art that knowns no color, race and status, a long-treasured form of art that has preserved the uniqueness of the Chinese culture alongside calligraphy and poetry. Traditional Chinese painting truly mirrors the deeply-rooted values and cardinal principles of the Chinese culture, such as the high regards for nature, a strong connection to the past, and the eight auspicious symbols of Buddhism, including the lotus flower, flower vase and fish pair- ideals that were clearly-evident in the painting exhibit.

 

The magnificent display of the oriental paintings effortlessly whisked me away from the rest of the crowd, as if the mystic images were talking to me and unraveling their stories before my very eyes. And just like that, the marveling suddenly takes off. There seems to be an unquenchable thirst welling within me, as if I was dead-tired from a long, exhausting journey, parched from thirst and is in dire need of a spring to drink from. I paused there, wondering how to shake hands with the gifted hands that brought forth all these paintings. The next thing I knew, I wanted to sit down with them and watch them pour out the content of their souls and the beauty of their minds to know what led to their works of art. And before I could even walk to the next set of paintings, I saw myself slumped at the fact that I was slowly baring my true self right there and then.  I am a frustrated painter.

 

Despite the dominant use of religio-auspicious symbols and nature-inspired imagery in traditional Chinese painting, painter and entrepreneur Helen Tansuk, maker of “Dancing tulips” and “Lotus” paintings, clarifies that oriental art is a far cry from symbolism, which centers on intellectual examination and logical reasoning, rather than capturing the very essence of the subject. The imagery of animated roosters, cooped up birds, spongy hydrangea flowers, blissful peonies, cozy, cuddly chickens, and gray, misty mountains that took center-stage at the exhibit were captured not only to depict the outer appearance of the subjects but their inner essence as well- the energy, life force, and spirit.

 

As in-depth conversations with Grace Dadufalza, Necita Cheng, and Helen Tansuk, the experienced and skilful artists of the exhibit, continue to flourish, I was ushered to a deeper understanding of the painting craft from a Chinese’s perspective. The distinctive painting popularized by the Chinese is rather a form of expressionism, notably rich in sensuous values that far outweigh the technical innuendo. As a two-time witness of the week-long exhibit, I came to realize that as well, where the painters have enormously asserted themselves of what wells up in their soul- and perfectly translates everything to a brush.The Chinese canon of aesthetics is fixed on a paradigm that opens spiritual consciousness rather than intellectual expansion, one that is infused with imagination and soul, a sense of craftsmanship that captures the essential spirit and beauty of a scene. But what truly sets Chinese paintings apart from any other painting from the rest of the world is its ability to display magnificence and mystic meanings while exuding pure humility.

 

Contrary to its Western counterpart, traditional Chinese paintings are humble in nature,  a striking beauty that doesn’t necessarily confide in the exact sharpness of details and outlines of the composition observed, but clamors to to contemplate on its sentimentality and intimation. The power to keep you grounded while affixed on majestic imageries is the missing component in European paintings. If we were to closely observe the perfectly crafted Leonardo Da Vinci Paintings and highly-acclaimed visual masterpieces of Michael Angelo and Raphael Sanzio, we’ll end up mouthing vivid praises on how they have made such epitome of perfection, which at times becomes an exaggeration of reality that almost rivals nature, to which Chinese painting completely detracts from. China’s humble paintings suggest a natural flow of dialogue with the past through the most natural style of capturing images, while European paintings cater realist and surrealist paintings like a richly-covered photograph that seems scientifically-right in every angle.

 

Grace Dadufalza, a 2nd-time participant to Shangri-La’s annual Chinese painting exhibit, says that a deep connection between the materials used in Chinese painting is a key ingredient in fostering artistic forms and techniques. “As for the painters of the exhibit, we used Ling Nan style, which makes use of watercolour rice paper, different kind of brushes and Chinese ink. Ling Nan is way too different from acrylic and oil painting,” Dadufalza reveals.

 

In Chinese painting, a wide array of Chinese brushes are required for dealing with various subjects and for creating variations in line thickness, as Dadufalza stresses that brush techniques are so much emphasized in Chinese painting not only in line drawing but also in shading and texture, as well as the meticulous dotting methods frequently used to differentiate trees and plants. Brush strokes undeniably give the painting rhythm and beauty while revealing the individuality and style of the painter himself; from the faintest swipe of ink to the boldest, blackest lines, a painter is sure to implicate something to the observer. Some common types of Chinese brush include crab claw brush, rabbit’s hair brush and sheep’s hair brush.

 

“The tricky thing about Chinese painting is that you can only do the strokes once, can’t put it all over again,” Dadufalza warns.  This harsh reality makes Chinese painting a particularly demanding art-form which requires years of training and discipline.

 

Most of the painters in the exhibit used the literati style or the expressionistic approach to their paintings, using brushstrokes and styling meant for personal creativity. A few of them, on the other hand, are extremely precise and much more decorative with their paintings, incorporating the Chinese gong-bi style, which is coined as the meticulous style of painting in China. Prancing around the artistic walls of the exhibit resound a variety of mood shifts as well, as each painting comes in a variety of styles and hues. Some paintings are in grayish monochrome, others resemble a black and white sketch, while a few of them are very brightly coloured.  Each stop takes me on a completely new feeling; each turn gives me a new storyline to engross myself with. By opting for the best dominating color of a painting, the painter immediately articulates the message he wants to come across.

 

A definite feast for the eyes, my inner self is starting to respond to the sensuality and spirituality of the sophisticated paintings, making me highly-intrigued by the painters’ motivation to come up with such artworks. While different people may have their own personal bias to any painting, one truth remains outstanding- a set of clearly defined symbols lurking behind a painting is key to unlocking the implicit riddle it poses. And of course,  as a trademark to Chinese paintings, a variety of  subject matter should be carefully considered to decode its meaning, including  a rich variety of flowers, fruits, insects,  fish and mountains, that depict something significant to the Chinese superstitions and culture. For this specific painting exhibit, it has been noticeable that the painters have particular favourites, such as plum blossoms, bamboo, fishes, lotus and rooster, being used frequently.

 

Bamboo, one of the most dominant themes in the exhibit, connotes  durability, strength, resilience, longevity and vitality; plum blossom stands for renewal and purity;  lotus depicts purity and the throne of Buddha; peony is the ‘king of the flowers’ and a symbol of royalty, wealth and virtue; and rose symbolizes youth and the four seasons. As for the animals used in the paintings, crane, fishes, birds and rooster were mostly incorporated. The crane symbolizes longevity and high status in the imperial hierarchy; the fish symbolizes abundance and affluence, as well as marriage and birth of many children; birds symbolize good fortune and opportunities; while the rooster, which is considered lucky in Feng Shui this year, depicts blessings and prosperity. The peacock, which was only used once in the painting exhibit, was the central character to Liezel Ong’s vividly-colored painting, an imagery that symbolizes dignity and beauty. On the other hand, paintings depicting mouth-watering landscapes and portraits of melancholic mountains such as that of Necita Cheng’s also commanded great attention, as mountains possess the symbolic role of being divine.

 

Besides the humble approach to artistry and the distinctive painting styles and techniques, another remarkable characteristic of Chinese paintings is the added spice of inscriptions and seals that gives a touch of uniqueness and identity to the painting, where the artist’s name and his poetic insights are placed in the artist’s most preferred part of the painting, as a final touch. A painting purposed to be given to a family or friend can also be reinterpreted by the recipient through another set of calligraphy and poetic insights he would like to put into the painting- any strong feeling or immediate connection he has with the painting written in lyric poetry. And as the painting is passed on from each generation to another, the beauty of painting reinterpretation starts to roll, and a historical thread is therefore established.

 

Above all, Chinese painting requires a life-long commitment to purity of heart and peace of the soul, a central theme to the long-standing Chinese heirloom that is anchored on an old Chinese adage that shames ill-purposed and hypocritical artistry, “No evil man can make a work of art.”

 

 

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Spring Film Festival 2017: Chinese Painting Exhibit

One attraction in the last Spring Film Festival 2017 at Shangri La Plaza was the Chinese Painting Exhibit. It was launched on the first day of Spring Film Festival, January 25 at the Grand Atrium on level 2 of the main wing of Shangri La Plaza. That was the first time I saw that kind or style of art painting and I would say that is was amazing. I think it was amazing because the paintings were made by the students of Confucius Institute at Ateneo de Manila. It’s shocking for these students have Chinese skills and talent that they have expressed in the exhibit.

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Snow Village by Neinei Hui Chun

Most of the paintings were rooster inspired obviously because it was year of the Fire Rooster this year. One thing I noticed about the exhibit was the titles of the paintings. Some of it was kinda off. It was like the titles were not carefully thought of and the painters just used the first word that comes out in their mind. This is because I remember one of the paintings with the title “Fight?” by Rosie Chan Fuentes and Rooster by Grace Dadufalza. For me, titles are also important because it makes the artwork remarkable.

What I like the most was the artwork of Necita R. Cheng entitled “Mountain Retreat” because it has a different theme from the other paintings. It was a painting of a single house on the top of the mountain and shows beautiful scenery of China. What I like about the painting

Mountain Retreat by Necita Cheng

was the combination of the colors because it compliments each other and somehow shows depression, sorrow and loneliness. I also love the “Snow Village” painting by Neinei Hui Chun. As the title suggest, it was a painting of a village covered in pure white snow. Like the “Mountain Retreat” painting, it conveyed the feeling of sadness and emptiness.

Aside from the titles, there are mobile numbers placed below the title. This may indicate that the paintings are for sale, or maybe the numbers are included if you wanted the artist to work for you.

As an aspiring artist, it was such a great opportunity to see this kind of event, to see artworks that are simple yet elegant, unique but detailed. This inspires me to work harder, and do better. Not just me but all of the aspiring artists and ordinary people with a blood of an artist sleeping within them.

By: Ugaban

11th Spring Film Festival’s Chinese Art Exhibit

Chinese art is a kind of art that has to be elegant, fine, and beautiful, especially in painting. Chinese painting focuses on the lives of the people, the traditions, beliefs, and beauty of nature like any other forms of art in different parts of the world.

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Zhang Daqian, a Chinese artist

I’ve seen it in the art exhibit in Shangri La for the 11th Spring Film Festival that happened from January 25-30.

 

Different artist showed their artworks and expressions in the canvas. Most of the paintings were about the roosters, this year’s Chinese zodiac. There are also paintings of flowers, woman, nature, landscapes and a peacock that shows the beauty of art in each strokes of brushes.

Every painting was beautiful but there’s one that caught my attention first, the painting of a woman exposing her back, entitled “The Greatest Gift” by Albert Hamabad K. Libre III. It shows the purity and essence of a traditional woman maintaining the natural elegance of her body.

The Greatest Gift by Albert Hamabad K. Libre III

The painting is very simple but also stunning. The black coloration of the painting brings the mysterious and seductive element of the image. Most of Libre’s artworks were chickens and rooster with calligraphy like style. Another good one is the “Mountain Retreat” by Necita R. Cheng, it shows the dramatic scenes of the China’s mountain ranges. The darkness of the artwork shows the melancholic but yet blissful life in the provinces.

Mountain Retreat by Necita Cheng

Her other artwork shown is the “Roses in Bloom”. Another artist is Joaquina T. So, I loved the coloration of her painting entitled “Hydrangea”, she managed to blend the colors red, blue and green. Another stunning artwork is the “Snow Village” By Neinei Hui Chun. It depicts the winter’s depressive and silent atmosphere. The first thing I felt when seeing Chun’s work is the feeling of oblivion inside me. Although I never experienced a winter I can

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Snow Village by Neinei Hui Chun

feel the forlorn emotion of it. There are also “fan” arts by Cesar Cheng, the one I liked in his works is the “Reaching of the Red Moon”.

 

All of them were good but most of the painting got the right simplicity and beauty. I’m hoping next year that the exhibit will showcase more talents like this.

by Elton Ongjoco

 

Chinese Art Exhibit dominated the Spring Fest for 4 Days

The stage was filled with extracts of Chinese skills and talent as the Confucius Institute of Ateneo de Manila University presented their Chinese Painting Exhibit which stayed in the Grand Atrium of Shangri-La Plaza from January 25 to January 29.

The artistic exhibit was part of the 11th Spring Film Festival celebrated by the Filipino-Chinese community. The paintings were mainly focused in roosters since it is the year of the rooster in Chinese calendar while other paintings depict the essence of life in Chinese strokes. The colorful paintings displayed came from different artists and painted in different media, some in small canvas and some in fans or medium-sized woods.

 

 

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The images in the exhibit possess different emotions that can be sent to the viewers like the “Regression” by Lucipinio Ng. It shows a rooster slightly taking a step while looking at its rear; it holds a weak feeling inside despite the normal view of the rooster. Another is “Patience”

by Margaret Sy. It is a picture of a person sitting in his banca with a lamp and a basket while herons perch beside him. The picture gives an atmosphere of tiredness and the feeling of being alone at the same time while waiting for something that may happen or not.

Other than the exhibit, several activities were held during the Spring Film Festival such as the Chinese Musical Concert, the Chinese Painting Exhibit, Chinese Pastel Painting Workshop and the Film Festival itself.

By: Dantes

Spring Film Festival: A festival of the undying beauty of the Chinese culture

by John Elmo Canonio

The grand atrium of Shangri-La mall was filled with color and beauty when they exhibit the paintings made by the students of Confucious Institute of Ateneo de Manila University. These paintings lasts for 4 days giving way for the shoppers to see these stunning paintings made by the talented students of the said school. This is all part of the annual Spring Film Festival which is celebrated by the Filipino-Chinese community.

The theme of the paintings is the rooster which symbolizes this year on their Chinese calendar. Those artistic crafts came in different sizes and styles but shared the same motive which is to celebrate the New Year and prosperity. Shoppers of any age enjoyed the beauty displayed by the paintings as artists made creative visualizations about the luck and prosperity that this year of the rooster may bring.

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Altough most of the paintings are about the roosters, some artists painted flowers and birds as they also represent the beauty of their culture and how they see the celebration of their New year. Many shoppers stopped by to stare at the beauty of the paintings, some even pulled of their phones and cameras to take a picture of the paintings. Its amazing that those beautiful and stunning artworks were only made by students, I won’t be surprised if one day I’ll see their future paintings in exhibits around the world.

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Aside from the painting exhibit, the mall also conducted a Musical concert that also didn’t failed to amaze the shoppers of the Shangri-La mall. Students from various schools and institutions shared their talents and gave the Filipino-Chinese community a taste of the undying culture of the Chinese art.

Students from the Philippine Cultural College Glee Club performed cultural Chinese songs and the beauty and power of their voice resonates the grand atrium of the mall. Many shoppers stopped by to listen to the music, I honestly don’t know the meaning of the song because of the language but I hope I feel the same emotion that they want the people to feel. Many performers contributed to the musical concert and the mall was filled with harmonious songs that really soothes the mind.

Upon witnessing the festival, I was so amazed of the Chinese culture and will look forward to see more of these for the years to come.

11th Spring Fest Music Fest

The Chinese have the earliest history of music tradition. This is evident from the discovery of their ancient instruments and musical pieces. From the Zhang Dynasty until today, the Chinese continue to express themselves through music.

The Chinese culture was continued by artists showing off their musical abilities in the Chinese Musical Concert at the Shangri-La Plaza last Monday. The musical started off with a performance from the Philippine Cultural College Glee Club, a group that was composed of women of different ages. This was followed by a solo number by Jhonvid Bangayan who sang three songs in Chinese then bewildered everyone when he sang “Ikaw”, which was popularized by Sharon Cuneta.

Afterwards, everyone’s attention got caught by a stunning performance by Albert Cedric Tan a blind pianist who played “Rondo alla turka” also known as Turkish march, a piece written by the Classical composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The event was ended by the Sireins, a trio of women who sang modern Chinese songs, their voices filled the atrium with their harmonious and vibrant tones.

By: Danganan