How a skilled artist innovates with Chinese ink painting

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At the 2016 G20 Summit, a large-scale work entitled “Landscape of the West Lake” became the background painting for the group photo of world leaders. Measuring five by two meters, it helped people around the world appreciate the beauty of modern Chinese ink painting. The creator of the artwork is the renowned Chinese artist Chen Jialing.

The panorama conveys the intangible qualities of the West Lake. The imaginative richness and cultural significance accumulated over the centuries seem to come alive through Chen’s compositional techniques and perfect use of color.

For years, Chen Jialing has been known in Chinese art circles for his desire for “change.” Establishing traditional Chinese ink painting, he innovated and attempted to break down boundaries in categories such as figures and landscapes, flowers and birds.

Chen Jialing studied the Chinese painting styles of Pan Tianshou and Lu Yanshao at the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts. Chen said he got a deeper understanding of traditional theory and techniques from the two painting masters of Chinese art history.

Chen Jialing absorbed the creative spirit of the two predecessors and made a significant change in his painting. He abandoned the usual use of pen and ink and explored the magical effects of the interplay of paper, water, brush pen and paint. This led to the birth of his new style of ink – Light Ink.

Since the 1980s, Chen has been famous for breaking with traditional lotus painting techniques. He created a series of lotus-themed paintings, forming a unique “Chen-style lotus”. Among them, his painting Untainted won the silver prize at the 7th National Art Exhibition. With the lotus as a signature, the artist created a modern Chinese style of painting that combines impressionism, abstraction and expressionism.

In addition, he creatively extended the beauty of Chinese ink painting to other areas of daily life, such as painting the lotus patterns on containers. In Jingdezhen, China’s “porcelain capital,” Chen cooperated with ceramic artists and painted the “lotus” on 40 pieces of large vats, making him the first person to paint lotus flowers on large porcelain wares.

As Chinese painting gains more recognition, traditional Chinese art is shared by people around the world. Chen Jialing has been sketching and painting Chinese stories with innovative brushstrokes for decades. The 85-year-old celebrated painter said he never stopped creating even in his last years, hoping to continue to showcase the oriental aesthetic on the international stage.

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