Oil painting has been popular in China for one century. With endeavors of several generations of Chinese artists, oil painting has enjoyed an important position in modern Chinese art. Last April, an oil painting review exhibition by Jin Shangyi, who had worked as president of Central Academy of Fine Arts, was held in National Art Museum of China. The total of 160 exhibits show Jin's lifelong pursuit of oil art.
Jin entered Peking State Art College at the age of 15 in 1949. The college was renamed Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1950 and he received professional training and guidance by several painting masters. In 1955, Jin went to former Soviet Union to continue his study of oil painting and graduated with excellent performance. As new China's first generation of oil painters, Jin is known for his works of revolutionary and history subjects. His masterpieces such as "Ascending Peak Mushitago", "Seeing Off", "Our Friends are All Over the World", "The December Meeting" and "The Long March" demonstrate his artistic talents and ambition to reflect realities with painting.
Jin's artistic accomplishments are reflected by his vast number of portraits. "I use portrait as a means to represent my ideal and pursuit of realistic life," explained Jin. Over his decades of artistic career, Jin has depicted a series of representative figures in Chinese realities. The images of ordinary workers he has created are so vivid that they can echo visitors' feelings. He had tried to purify people's minds by depicting ideal life.
Jin creates, but not depicts figures in his portrait works, which shows a different artistic pursuit from his peers. While most Chinese oil painters followed the styles of former Soviet Union, he blazed a new road by interpreting essential natures of European oil painting from the perspective of design language. Meanwhile, he consciously explored spiritual value of his portraits from classic experiences. Such understanding surpassed the limit of the time and helped him to create extraordinary works.
Since China reopened its door to the world in the late 1970s, Jin has visited numerous museums in Europe and North America and studied origin and development of European oil painting, particularly classic oil works since the Renaissance. He learned the technical nature of Western bright-and-dark design system as well as cultural essence of Western oil art. As a result, he rebuilt his artistic goals both in form and in spiritual value.
Jin has made remarkable contribution to depicting of Chinese figures by oil and is considered as a landmark of Chinese oil painting in the new era. Neoclassicism represented by his oil style has had extensive impact on Chinese fine arts circle as well as the whole society.
The subject of humanity represents Jin's artistic style. Reserved facial expressions, elegant tones and serene images corresponded to cultural psychology and social ideal for humanity and beauty in the early 1980s. When realism was marginalized in Chinese painting circle, Jin did not simply safeguard it but revamp its value by exploring humanity.
In the 21st century, Jin's paintings have shown a new change, featuring lively lines and bright colors. This change reflects his consistent pursuit of depicting realistic life.
Jin is closely linked to the development of Chinese fine arts in the past half century. Fifty years of diligent exploration and pursuit has made him an art practitioner and academic guide in Chinese oil circle. Jin is now in his seventies and continues to make new creations. The exhibition in 2005 was not a review of his past accomplishments but also a herald of his future success.
(ChinaCulture.org August 11, 2006)