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Spring Festival Marked with Oil Painting Extravaganza

"Spring Festival is coming. When celebrating the Year of the Dog, I believe that Beijingers need not just banquets, temple fairs, sightseeing, but also musical concerts, and feasts for their eyes," chimed Fan Di'an, the newly appointed curator of the National Art Museum of China.

For last year's Spring Festival season, the museum offered the viewers a rare chance to sample the flavors of diverse folk art works and enjoy face-to-face interaction with folk artists from different parts of the country.

This time, visitors will be served very differently, with three oil painting shows running until February 12.

The largest one is the first "Endless Rivers and Mountains" oil painting invitation exhibition.

The art show presents at least 240 selected oil works from 60 veteran painters from across the country, depicting an assortment of portraits, landscapes, and local/ethnic cultures in contemporary China.

The participating artists include rising stars such as Pan Xiaodong, Xu Li, Zhang Dongfeng, and Weng Kaixuan, and such veteran artists as Su Tianci, Zhan Beixin, and Shang Yang.

In this exhibition, "Chinese artists from different age groups all explore the new possibilities of fusing Chinese aesthetics with Western techniques in the genre of oil painting," said Yin Shuangxi, curator of the exhibition, which is warmly supported by oil painting societies and art academies from across the country.

Looking at the history of traditional Chinese ink painting, one will find there has been a parallel development of painting styles in northern and southern China, Yin said.

In an era of globalization and information explosion, making use of one's distinctive local and ethnic cultural resources is considered a vital strategy for artists worldwide to assure their own national and cultural identities, Yin said.

Yin hopes that this exhibition may give Chinese artists and critics the chance to ponder such questions as "Could Chinese artists today, with the new style of oil painting, successfully forge their own styles with a strong local flavour? Does there exist a clear difference between artists from northern and southern China?"

The second exhibition, "Crossing the Borders of Cultures," features signature works and related documents such as sketches, letters, manuscripts, and diaries, from Gao Xiaohua, Xu Mangyao, Yang Qian and He Gong.

Currently teaching and living abroad, the four artists are widely recognized as typical of the more active, pioneering young artists in the 1980s when China left behind the chaotic and catastrophic "cultural revolution" (1966-76), and began opening its doors to the outside world and embarking on a path to a market economy.

"With their youthful minds and passion for art, these respectable artists have taken part in writing a shining page of art history in a renewed era of New China. Their names and their signature works are eyewitnesses to the evolution of modern Chinese oil painting," said Fan Di'an.

The third exhibition, entitled "Landscapes of Southern China," provides the viewers a glimpse of the thriving and refreshing sceneries and vivid portrayals of local people and cultures from South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

Twelve artists including Xie Sen, Liu Shaokun, Pang Haiyan, Lei Bo, and Huang Jing, have brought to Beijing 40 of their latest oil works.

The exhibition may serve as a response to the questions raised by Central Academy of Fine Arts professor Yin Shuangxi.

"With their unique style, a new version of Lijiang River Painting School is taking shape among oil artists in Guangxi," said Su Lu, an art critic and curator for the exhibition.

"They are focusing on events, people and life on their native soil. They are trying not to blindly copy artists from other parts of China or artists from other corners of the world. They are creating their own artistic 'brands'," Su explained.

Following these three exhibitions, the art museum will provide the audiences with a rich variety of exhibitions from home and abroad in the coming months, according to Ma Shulin, a deputy curator with the museum.

Most eye-catching among them will be the first Nationwide Pottery and Ceramic Exhibition, Russian Art Exhibition, the Exhibition of Works by French Realism Master Gustave Courbet, French Crystal Art Exhibition, Year of Italy in China Exhibition, Exhibition of Contemporary Mexican Art, Ma said.

(China Daily January 27, 2006)


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