Spirit of Chinese landscape
Because artists in the Wei and Jin periods suffered from the cruelty of society, they turned their attention away from matters of social interaction towards the splendid natural landscapes. With the development of later aesthetic theory, Chinese landscape painting finally had an appropriate and fertile soil for growth. Artists were no longer constrained to their studios for ink and brush games, but began to pay attention to the connections between humans and nature, which, under the painters’ brushes, were not only their aesthetic concepts, but also their philosophies, Landscape painting became the embodiment of their view of nature. They infused their feelings into these paintings, personified them it and endowed them with spiritual connotations.
Confucianism compares landscape to virtue. The Analects of Confuciussay “the intelligent are like water, the kind are like mountains; the intelligent are active, the kind are peaceful; the intelligent are happy, and the kind are long lived.”
Confucianism states that human personality and temperament are connected to the character of nature, encouraging improving personal aesthetic taste and morality through the process of studying change in nature, and leaving themselves in the personified landscapes, and so personally touching this natural form. The artists acquire spiritual interaction with it and enter a realistic natural life-state of “doing whatever with one’s inclinations, but not going beyond the rules.”
Daoism pursues the concordance of “the unity of man’s nature.” “Man’s nature is born as a whole, and man’s nature is living as one. ” This means that all objects and principles of this world coexist with human beings. Variations in nature are imperceptibly related to human social actions. As for the natural landscapes, Daoism is focused more on creating “leisurely state of inaction” and pursues a harmonious blend of man and nature in the process of traveling in nature, breaking through the mundane bondage and spiritual fetters, seeking a more metaphysical “transparent” and abstruse realm.
In Buddhism, “Realization of instinct” advocates understanding life by silently watching and feeling natural landscapes, caring with the inner heart, regarding the landscape paintings after sensing nature as a life like us, pursuing “transparence” and “enjoyment of Zen,” and tasting the life rhythm through solemn cultivation, and so that acquiring inner peace and free.
Chinese landscape paintings reflect the aesthetic inclination and moral pursuit of the Chinese people. The artists’ vivid descriptions of landscapes are the aesthetic views of themselves, as well as inner spiritual representation of their audiences. The mastery of the spirit of landscape painting is from the artists’ personal attention to natural landscapes. This needs a long-term process of landscape sketching and only after continuous “assistance of a teacher” can the artist reach the level of “teacher in heart.” Liu Zhibai, Kun Lunzi and Liu Jinan are three outstanding representatives of such contemporary Chinese landscape paintings.
The senior gentleman Liu Zhibai has devoted himself to the way of art for 70 years. The ink-splashing landscape paintings he created with clear and dark inks, and the strokes seem to create bones in the paper, boundless, vacant, mild and free. Especially in his old age, he achieved a level of aloofness, simplicity and innocence. He was poor at the price of burning his life, his artworks, created with such noble personality, simplicity, and loneliness, are precious, leaving the later generations some cool feelings when facing the fickleness created by prosperity. Living in a nine square meter room, he originally created volumes of ink-overlaying and ink-splashing, landscape paintings. Liu’s technique is a synthesizer of Chinese humanity, and he is also a ideal Chinese person: gentle, generous, persistent and dauntless.
Kun Lunzi was born in the western plateau of China. His spirit of independence and creative personality helped him break away from customary and stylized formularies, demonstrating a dreamy, almost musical brushwork and color selections that poetically describe the western great mountain, holy waters, and the desolate Gobi desert, His surreal paintings come from his inner heart and are full of romantic eastern mystical charm: subtle, dim and vague implications from the deep soul of an artist echoing the greatness of nature. They seem like a great symphony was played.
The North Western landscapes of Liu Jinan are dauntless, eternal, and historical boundless and solemn, just like the strong life will of the natives of the northwest. His brushwork is bold, strong and precipitous. Discontinuous and continuous lines are laid, ink and color are blended and full of passion, and free elaboration. A sketching career of more than 30 years’ s helped him accumulate vigor in his chest so that his sketches of natural landscapes have become a direct description of his own “landscape of inner heart.” It brings his spirit onto the world under his brush, quietly achieving “the realm of the Buddhas” in the process of self-awakening.
The art of landscape painting is a special technique of the Chinese people connecting nature, culture, and personal action into a harmonious landscape. It unites the magnificent natural landscapes with the sphere of human life, and so bears the spiritual homeland of Chinese people. This is recognized as a contemporary multi-faceted art system of the world, however, the special “spirit of Chinese landscape” of Chinese culture depends on its own charm and brings to the world a universal outlook on nature and humanity which have been lost nowadays, and now this has remarkable significance.
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