Exhibiting the vitality of ink-wash painting

Wang Jie
The solo exhibition of artist Liang Ying at Long Museum West Bund might change one's opinion about Chinese ink-wash paintings.
Wang Jie

The solo exhibition of artist Liang Ying at Long Museum West Bund might change one's opinion about Chinese ink-wash paintings.

The exhibition features nearly 30 paintings created by Liang, including series such as "Prosperous Blossoms," "New Year's Offering" and "Yellow Flowers and Blue Leaves" that employ her mature expressionist brushwork to reinterpret classic floral patterns in traditional Chinese paintings, New Year Pictures and woodblock prints.

A pioneering female artist in Chinese contemporary art, Liang joined one of the earliest groups of Chinese artists to study in Germany in the 1980s. She is also one of the first established Chinese artists to forgo oil painting and focus on ink painting.

Born in Beijing in 1961, Liang studied at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts from 1981 to 1982, and then at the University of Fine Arts of Hamburg in Germany from 1983 to 1993. She received scholarships from the Rotary Club Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein Art Foundation.

Her works usually take on a contemporary style with a bold and unconstrained application of ink and bright colors, relying heavily on the subtlety of intermediate colors, which is usually ignored by Chinese ink-wash painting traditions in the xieyi (freehand) style, or impressionist style with swift and spontaneous brush strokes.

Instead of recording and summarizing real life, she prefers to paint based on her feelings and experience with humor.

Like many Chinese artists in the 20th century, Liang devotes herself to exploring the possibilities of ink painting, hoping to prove to the world that ink painting is still a vital component of today's contemporary art world.

Whether in her early series "Diary Liang Ying," which depicts modern women in urban settings, or her recent series "Immortals and Legends," Liang has always combined compositional elements and content of German neo-expressionism with the brushwork and subject matters of traditional Chinese painting in an innovative way.

Among the exhibited works, the seven-screened painting "Prosperous Blossoms" is the highlight. In fact, the four-character Chinese idiom hua kai fu gui, meaning "blooming flowers bring prosperity," is a classic subject of traditional Chinese painting, symbolizing a fulfilling, wealthy and virtuous life.

Exhibiting the vitality of ink-wash painting
Courtesy of Long Museum (West Bund)

"Prosperous Blossoms" by Liang Ying, color on paper, 2021

Drawing inspiration from this subject though, Liang diverged from the panoramic layout and even-numbered screen system in Chinese traditional painting. She focused on the detailed parts of the flowers and rendered them with goutian technique, a careful realistic approach in Chinese gongbi (fine-line) painting, on seven sheets of large-scale rice paper.

Fusing concept and technique, she has painted an impressive visual diorama that combines history, legends, metaphors and imagination, creating a "world of fantasy."

Exhibition info

Dates: Through January 9 (closed on Mondays), 10am-5:30pm

Tickets: 100 yuan (280 yuan from December 19)

Venue: Long Museum (West Bund)

Address: 3398 Longteng Avenue

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