By Ren Zhongxi
China.org.cn staff reporter
In the quiet and green Yannan Park of Peking University, a small, old-fashioned yard stands among swaying bamboos. This is yard No. 52, where artist Shang Yang and Professor Peng Feng from the Research Center for Aesthetics and Aesthetics Education at Peking University shared their views in a seminar about Chinese modern art.
"The Dong Qichang Project": a reflection on the relationship between humans and nature
"The Dong Qichang Project" is Shang's first solo exhibition. Dong Qichang was a painter, calligrapher and an experienced art critic during the Ming dynasty. He lived in an era when people preferred to work spontaneously instead of making precise schedules. Shang places the modern word "project" beside the name of the traditional Chinese artist in the title of his exhibition, thus creating a sense of contradiction and expressing his views regarding people's destructive power on nature today.
Shang Yang is showing his work [China.org.cn]
Shang showed the audience his ideas through an album of paintings. One picture in the album was a traditional Chinese painting of a mountain and a river, cut in half. One half had been scribbled over in thick, black lines. Shang said the lines represent the dramatic change people impose on nature after science and technology have developed to a certain level. This change, Shang said, is perpetually altering nature and generating pungent and ceaseless pains against people. Shang hopes to bring people's attention to this universal problem through his album. Shang's works in the album were created from 2002 to 2009 as a continuation of his previous concern about people and nature. The exhibition is now on show in Tiananmen Time Fashion & Art Center, No. 23 Qianmen Street.
From the West to the East: Chinese way of modern art
The late renowned president of Peking University, Cai Yuanpei, advanced the idea of "adopting an all-embracing doctrine" to run the college in 1916. This pioneering concept convened academic theories and practices from both the West and the East. Traditional and modern thoughts collided with each other and brought China to a new age. Ninety-three years later, Chinese modern art is forced to find its own way, after years of following the West.
Shang helped to explain the development of Chinese modern art in general. Chinese art has served as a tool for politics since 1949. Walking away from the restraints of ideology in the 1980s, it began to adapt various western art theories. In the 1990s, artists paid more attention to individual exploration and sought international acknowledgement. So far in the 21st century, Chinese modern art is seeking to develop a unique expression and become more pluralistic. Peng summarized Chinese modern art as "looking at others," "being looked at by others," and "looking at itself."
Peng says China initially modernized through Westernization, which has caused a lot of contradictions with traditional Chinese culture. Chinese modern art has developed in much the same way. China's art and artists are absent from the 20th century. However, with globalization, the world is closely connected and cultures are blending into new forms. Chinese artists are now voluntarily turning to their abundant aesthetic and cultural heritage. Some of them use typical Chinese symbols to appeal to westerners, while others deliberately choose them to uniquely express their concern about problems happening in Chinese society.
China can neither refuse the ubiquity of western culture, nor completely give up the original Chinese taste. Moreover, the elaboration of art today includes artists' social responsibility instead of "art for art's sake." According to Shang and Peng, the "Chinese way of modern art" can be concluded as, "reflecting and solving China's problems by Chinese people with Chinese wisdom."
(China.org.cn June 15, 2009)