Historically, painters may have been considered to be often possessed with a certain arrogance, and perhaps an air of superiority. This time has long since passed, although meeting an intelligent, academic painter of the 21st century can still be a slightly unnerving experience. Thankfully however, meeting painter He Shuifa put to rest any misconceptions I may have had. Just as his paintings would suggest, his manner was natural and forthright, and I felt relaxed in his presence.
Despite being a painter with strong scholastic style, He Shuifa is anything but bookish. As simple a man as the brush and ink he uses in his painting, many regard his works as showing a grasp on what may be viewed as the true essence of art. I have tried in the past to appreciate He's works by applying my knowledge of different theories of painting to his works. But gradually I have learned that to enjoy He's pieces, viewers simply need to open their minds and attempt to view the pieces with their true hearts. Without redundant theories or unnecessary over-analyzing, an attitude of simplicity and genuineness is more than enough to lead audiences into He's pure and natural artistic world.
Born in August 1946 in Hangzhou, and with a profound capability in traditional Chinese realistic flower-and-bird painting, He Shuifa was among the first group of the post-graduates admitted by universities in 1978. Later, under the guidance of such renowned painters as Lu Yifei, Zhu Lesan, and Wu Fuzhi, he studied freehand brushwork of flower-and-bird paintings. From the age of 16, he began to copy models of flower-and-bird paintings from the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and thus grasped an innate comprehension of Song painting. His hard work during his early years set a solid foundation for successful artistic creation in his later days. For decades He Shuifa has been searching for novel creative artistic concepts, while maintaining the practice of the theoretical concepts of traditional painting. With a great artistic passion, he has accomplished numerous wonderful works relying on nature as his main subject.
The exquisiteness of He Shuifa's works lie in his subtle way of depicting such universal themes as life and love through his profound grounding in the basic skills of painting. His works at once represent a return to the tranquil, peaceful, setting of the natural world, while possessing a strong vitality of life. His brush and ink seems to have a penetrating power, leaving his viewers unable to resist wandering into the perpetual natural world behind the painting paper. Said to possess a vigorous and unrestrained temper, He Shuifa found that freehand brushwork in traditional Chinese flower-and-bird paintings is the best vehicle for him to express his inner self. Moreover, as an excellent flower-and-bird painter, the artist himself never indulges himself in unruliness, but rather sticks to rules and disciplines. Thus, his paintings reflect a vigorous and flowing style with a refined cultural taste.
There is a natural and harmonious combination of ink, brush, and color in He Shuifa's paintings. Traditional painting elements are given fresh individuality and meaning in his paintings, and at the same time, help to maintain the traditional flavor of his works. It is difficult to comprehend He Shuifa's passionate paintings in a conventional or excessively studied way of thinking. People who are familiar with the artist's work may pay more attention to the blank space in his paintings, for these blank spaces often hold special artistic conceptions and poetic imageries which the artist wishes to convey. Simple colors and lines are given rich meanings to exhibit deeper themes, a most thought-provoking element of his paintings, which one may attribute to his profound understanding of nature and life.
He Shuifa's works are a beautiful contrast of a deeper meaning with a vivid esthetic. His paintings reflect his love for life and can often arouse the sentiments of freedom and romance in his audiences' subconscious. Eyes are not enough to understand his works; viewers must also employ their souls.
He Shuifa: A Profile
Born in August 1946 in Hangzhou, He Shuifa graduated from the flower-and-bird paintings postgraduate-student class of the Traditional Chinese Paining Department of the China Academy of Art in 1980. Now he is a member of China Artists Association, vice-president of the Artistic Market Union under China General Chamber of Commerce, visiting professor of the Postgraduate Research Institute of Chinese Academy of Arts under the Ministry of Culture, managing vice-director of Zhejiang Creation Center under China Artists Association, vice-president of Zhejiang Flower-and-Bird Painters Association, and visiting professor of the China Academy of Art. A state-level artist, he now enjoys special subsidy from the State Council.
Author: Shen Xiaodan
(China Pictorial August 23, 2006)