FEATURING a large number of masterpieces by contemporary artists created from 1978, the year which marks the beginning of China’s reform and opening up, a large exhibition entitled “Exhibition of Chinese Artworks Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Reform and Opening Up” wooed audiences at the China National Museum of Fine Arts in Beijing last month.
The exhibition is currently being held at the Guangdong Museum of Art in Guangzhou through Sept. 24. By presenting 243 pieces of ink-wash paintings, oil paintings, prints, watercolors, lacquer paintings and sculptures created by more than 200 Chinese artists, two-thirds of whom are Guangdong artists, the exhibition showcases the artists’ extraordinary artistic talent and achievements.
Charm of ordinary people
Great social changes since 1978 have profoundly influenced everyone in China. Many of the artworks in the exhibition aim at visualizing the rich personalities of ordinary people through virtues such as wisdom, bravery, open-mindedness and more. Bringing out these inner and often invisible qualities calls for artistic techniques of the highest variety.
For instance, the oil painting “Young Couple” by Guangdong artist Li Jieping realistically portrays a young man and his wife building a wall with bricks and cement at a construction site. Through his mastery of classical oil painting techniques, the artist reveals the cleverness and persistence of the young man and the sincerity and kindness of his wife. With a calm look upon their faces, they are both confident that they will have a bright future.
Besides facial expressions, colors and composition may also help to illustrate a person’s mind. For instance, the ink-wash painting “Lady Selling Flowers” by Guangdong artist Wang Yujue depicts a young lady riding on her way to sell flowers during a Spring Festival in a time past. Wearing a bright yellow coat and accompanied by pink peach flowers behind her against a white background, the smiling lady looks lively and optimistic, and her charming eyes shine with wisdom and purity.
Appeal of daily moments
Over the past four decades, numerous people have left their homes to work at bigger cities that are often on the coast. Lots of works in the exhibition depict people working, reading or traveling back home. These ordinary moments, which might normally be overlooked, appear imposing, dramatic or divine in the works created by outstanding artists.
For example, in oil painting “At Noon in the Special Economic Zone” by Guangdong artist He Kedi, bright and dazzling sunlight casts light on three young ladies who are taking a break on the soil ground of a building site, one resting on the body of the other. Producing a strong contrast between light and shadow, the sunlight looks like lamplight coming from the ceiling of a theater stage, creating an attractive and dramatic effect and drawing our attention to the appealing faces of the three ladies. Apart from the sunlight, the seemingly casual but interesting postures of the ladies also enhance the dramatic effect.
This kind of unusual effect of daily moments can also be produced by painting composition. For instance, oil painting “Over the Clouds” by Guangdong artist Zhao Weidong creates a very impressive effect by a special upward perspective. With the groups of high-rise buildings in the distance visually much smaller than the men, the workers standing on the iron building framework appear to be lofty and great, suggesting their remarkable contributions in constructing the modern buildings with hands.
Beauty of common places
Since the implementation of the reform and opening-up policy, the decor and layout of various places has been greatly improved, such as streets and railways. Artists of the remarkable works in the above exhibition excel at discovering the beauty of these common places, such as the rhythm of motorway interchanges, the elegance of modern buildings or the stylishness of shopping malls.
For instance, the ink-wash painting “Happiness at Pearl River Area” by Jin Xiao describes a common but poetic scene at the bank of the Pearl River in a city in Guangdong Province. With brilliant blossoms and dreamy blue leaves shading a newly-painted white chair installed with prettily-shaped legs, this river-bank sight represents many of the urban scenes within the Pearl River Delta, which are made ecologically beautified by abundant flowers and trees everywhere.
“Many of the masterworks in this major exhibition won medals at national fine arts exhibition. These works present the lives of ordinary people or capture a daily moment or a common scene, but they reflect the great historical changes of China since late 1970s and illustrate the spirit of our time,” says Wang Shaoqiang, director of Guangdong Museum of Art.
(The author is a researcher at the Guangdong Museum of Art.)
Venue: Halls 1-12, Guangdong Museum of Art, 38 Yanyu Road, Ersha Island, Guangzhou
Dates: Now through Sept. 24
Time: 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Tuesdays-Sundays
Tel: (020) 8735-1468