Understanding Chinese painting is both simple and complex. Traditionally, Chinese paintings can be divided into categories by their images: figures, landscapes, flowers or birds; or by techniques: “gongbi” (meticulous) or “ xieyi” (sketching-thoughts or freehand). Chinese paintings do not utilize a single point of view. Rather, multiple viewpoints encourage the eye to roam freely through the painting.
Chinese paintings often combine poetry, calligraphy, painting and seal impressions. The inscriptions on Chinese paintings may include the name of the painter (often indicated in a red seal), the presenter and recipient of the work, a title, a few words from the painter, and sometimes a poem or prose appreciation. The inscriptions express the feelings and personal circumstances of those who have created, owned, received, or contemplated the painting.
Because of the Min Province’s isolated mountainous nature, painting there developed at a slower pace than in the provinces in the Central Plains. During the Qing (1644-1912) dynasty, Huang Shen 黄慎 (1687-1770), stood out as typical of Min painters and was often regarded as the founder of the school of Min painting. A more contemporary artist, Li Geng 李耕 (1885-1964) continues the Min tradition; some of his works can be seen in this exhibit.
The technique of revealing a narrow, concentrated vision and a commitment to the exact rendering of an object is a common feature of Min paintings. Fujian painters use a variety of styles, but they all have strong technique and a reputation for being open, adventurous and stubborn at the same time. In the twentieth century China produced many excellent Min painters whose works are beginning to find an audience all over the world.