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Yuan Shijia Introduction by Wang Guanyu ENGLISH TRANSLATION

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Author Topic: Yuan Shijia Introduction by Wang Guanyu ENGLISH TRANSLATION  (Read 444 times)
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« on: February 14, 2014, 05:50:05 pm »

I just wanted to bring this over to it's own topic for the purpose of indexing and easy reference..

From Peters posting on a "four landscape bottles"

Technical Beauty and Aesthetic Beauty

    “Passion overflowing from the heart to the bottle”
                  by Wang Guanyu 王冠宇

I still remember a few years ago a young man came to me with some inside painted landscape snuff bottles and told me that these were his own works. As soon as I saw them I was impressed by what he had painted. So I looked him up and down: he was only twenty years old, with a delicate, young face, wearing a cloth hat and a sweater, and he had a natural, relaxed personality. His name was Yuan Shijia.

After closely examining his works one by one, I found that they showed not only   very skilled painting ability, but they also showed a unique style, both of which were disproportionate to his young age. Moreover, as we talked about landscape painting, from classical to modern styles, from Shi Tao (石涛)  to  Zhang Daqian (张大千)
I gradually felt he was no ordinary artist and he also had the ability to integrate his technical skills with his knowledge of art. Therefore, I kept two of his works to study them more carefully
Generally speaking, inside painting can be evaluated according to the same criteria    which are used to judge ordinary painting. In my opinion, there are two steps to evaluate   a landscape painting. The first step is to examine the background and to look at the far distant things such as forests and mountains, winding roads around the hills, clouds and mist.  According to the ‘Six Rules’ in traditional Chinese landscape painting, I can most certainly say that Yuan Shijia’s works have great depth in the background. The second step is to observe the details carefully. When I did this, I could see that there is a rhythm in his brush strokes which move up and down in just the right way, just as do the notes in music move up and down when a skilled musician plays an instrument.
The brush strokes in traditional Chinese painting have a unique form. There is a sophisticated drawing method named cun (皴) developed from Chinese traditional landscape painting which can be used to define the structure and  layout of a  picture using different points and strokes of the brush:  pima cun, jiesuo cun, rice cun,  big and small axe cun  and so on. The different cuns from traditional landscape painting can be applied to any kind of painting, and they also show each artist’s own special style and painting technique. The cun which Yuan Shijia uses in his inside painted landscapes show his own special technique.

As landscape painters sometimes say: ‘drawing a Chinese painting is rather like riding a bicycle gently downhill in a relaxed “free wheeling” way, not going at full speed which requires a lot of control’.  It’s also like opera singing: the breath is drawn from one’s belly up to one’s throat and then pulled back again in a very fluent way. Finally, I found a young man who had this important natural inner control while he painted.

Usually, the leaves in a landscape painting are portrayed layer by layer so that they gradually unfold in levels: first the whole foliage then individual leaves and finally the fine details of the tips of the leaves. But Yuan Shijia portrays leaves in a very different way. He breaks the rules and spreads out leaves in a regular and even manner so that they adorn the landscape in a very strong way. The way he paints leaves create a special kind of “music” rather like the sound of the pipa instrument as described in the classic poem “Pipa Tune” by Bai Juyi (白居易) : “Rumbling and rustling, alternating quickly -  like large and small beads falling onto a jade plate".
Or maybe one could say it’s like the rhythmic sounds that African people make with their hands and feet.

Yuan Shijia also has a different method to draw leaves: he uses a semicircle which is perfectly round on one side but tapers away on the other side, which is similar to the shape of the “Tang grass” decorative pattern. This decorative design was originally found on ancient porcelain and early Chinese paintings also used the same style.  This is Yuan Shijia’s own innovation in painting because the overall effect is that the leaves look like waves or a cloud. This exaggerated way of painting leaves makes his landscapes reminiscent of the dynamic spirit of early rock paintings. Ancient painters had very deep feelings about landscape painting because they loved everything   about nature, including those people who themselves created the paintings. Human beings are just one, and also one of the fewest of creatures among the millions of forms of life in nature so the ancient artists understood that the painter's soul and nature itself  are both joined together as one whole. The feelings of the mind and the melody of nature are both born out of a perfect fusion in a shared life: the so-called "nature and humanity". Through the medium of a landscape painting the artist can “reflect” the philosophy of nature using different colors, styles and rhythms.

Generally speaking a snuff bottle landscape painting expresses the sense of a journey by describing the hills rolling over one another, flowing rivers, people crossing bridges and fishing boats returning from a trip. Yuan Shijia often focuses on a certain part of the gorge or the woods and partially magnifies or - better expressed  - “exaggerates”  it.
As Shi Tao (石涛) said:
      “One should only paint mountains after having travelled over them.”
Yuan Shijia pays attention to every hill, stone, grass and tree, and he puts his whole effort into doing this. Thus one cannot appreciate the meaning of his painting unless one inspects it very carefully.

In the poem by Pan Tianshou (潘天寿) he writes this: “People from the Wu School and the Zhe School (the Southern and Northern Schools respectively) debate with each other regarding their different styles. Who will draw mountains carelessly if there is no Buddha or there are no people? ” Since olden old times, there have been arguments about landscape painting between the Southern and Northern Schools.  Shi Tao expressed it perfectly when he said that: “There are so many ways of doing things in the world; each person has his own way of doing what he does best. But as for me - I just do things in my own way”.   Because Yuan Shijia really understands the meaning of Chinese landscape painting, he has been able to create his own individual style.

When he draws people who are part of a landscape painting, Yuan Shijia wants to explain the meaning of “Chan” (禅) Buddhist meditation. When you are at the first stage of practicing Chan meditation you see that mountains are mountains and water is water. After you become enlightened by Chan meditation, the mountains are no longer mountains and the waters are no longer waters. But when you achieve a deep understanding of Chan meditation, mountains are still mountains and the water is still water. When he portrays people in mountain scenes, Yuan Shijia tries to use his landscape painting to express his deep understanding of Chan meditation. But he sometimes does not draw the figures of people in detail, making them a wordless page, thus leaving sufficient space for the imagination.

It is sad that as a professional painter, Yuan Shijia has to make his living based mainly on his inside-painting skill. Therefore he has to create some works to meet public taste because not everyone can appreciate his style. That is also the same sad case for all inside-painting artists. It is also sad that there are so many limitations on the ways in which information about art is disseminated. Before the age of mass media, information was spread verbally and it was even spread differently within different groups of society. For example, a famous painting like the "The Eight Wonders of Yangzhou (杨州八怪)" was only discussed among officials, rich merchants and scholars. By keeping discussion restricted to within a small group circle, it was considered that information would be reliable. Thus, for example, if some members of such a group said that a bamboo painting by Zheng Banqiao (郑板桥) was painted very well, all those in the group could trust the reliability of the information.

In today’s modern society there is a great variety of media and so information is disseminated much more widely. But even so, promotion and publicity have a great influence. Thus an artist whose work is not particularly good may become very well known, meanwhile another artist whose work is much better but who is not good at promoting himself may be left out in the cold.

Nowadays there are numerous subjects of study and fields of specialization and nobody can be an expert in everything. Faced with the complex variety of information, ordinary people - and even professionals themselves - can only have a general understanding of any one field of specialization.  For example, we recently saw in the CCTV program "Treasure Hunt (鉴宝)"  a lot of people lined up carrying bottles, expecting high value estimates from the antique appraisers for the treasures they hoped they had found, but finally most of them were disappointed. The truth is that not everybody can truly understand art, and the ability to identify true art needs to be mastered and must be based on solid knowledge and an understanding of culture. These skills cannot all be learned at one stroke in a short period of time. A lot of people hope to find a valuable art object because they passively believe what they have been told that this particular artist is famous or that particular art work is valuable, which means that the market is flooded with fakes.  Even some ‘real’ artists also produce fakes in order to cater for the gullibility of such people. 
I used to feel very strange about Yuan Shijia’s art  name ‘苑世假’, so I asked him: “Why do you use as part of your art name the character ‘Jia (假)’ which means fake/false? ” He replied:
           “ When what is false is true, then truth is false.”

It seems to me that Yuan Shijia is deliberately trying to expose the injustice in this world through his art name.

Yuan Shijia still has a long way to go along the road of his inside-painting career, but there is only a limited time frame within which he can achieve create his finest creations. Therefore I really do hope he can meet more "soul mates" who can understand his works.

Wang Guanyu, Final English translation by Steven Li and Peter Bentley based on a first very rough  English translation supplied by Yuan Shijia (9.2012)

« Last Edit: February 14, 2014, 06:13:16 pm by Bottle Guy » Report Spam   Logged

Peter Bentley 彭达理
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« Reply #1 on: February 15, 2014, 05:11:55 am »

Hi George

Many thanks. Steven  and  I  worked   very  hard  on this   translation  and  I think  we  both   learned a  lot   from   cooperating on it.

I certainly  got a  lot  more  out  than  I ever  put in  to the   project  ( and  I put  in  over  one  week   elapsed   time)

I think  it's  a  key   stepping   stone  document  for   those   who want to  really  understand  the  Very   Modern  Inside Painted  Bottle  field.

As with  all  things,  the  more  one  puts  in , the  more  one  gets  out.

That's   also  a  key-note  theme  for  our   Forum  !

Passers-by  and  lurkers   will  get  nothing  out.  But  those   who  devote   time and  energy  to participating in this Forum will enjoy a richness (if that's  not  a  too  excessive  word !)  of knowledge.... and    fun !

Here's to  the  Forum !


PS:  I am not a  big  collector  of  Yuan  Shijia  (so far )  but I have   collected  a few of   what I think  are  some of  his   seminal works.  The  very  first  bottle  of  Yuan Shijia   which I  bought   was  actually on my  very  first  Hengshui    trip,  purchased    via  Li Shouxun,    in 2009. So this is  not a  big  personal  push  for   YSJ  as a  collector of his   works :  it's  more  that  I  think  YSJ  typifies  the  best of  the  best  VMIPB   artists  - and  he  has  WGY's  endorsement   which  is   worth   10,000  x  more  than  my endorsement ! 
« Last Edit: February 15, 2014, 05:32:38 am by Peter Bentley 彭达理 » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #2 on: February 15, 2014, 07:00:55 am »

   I just read this post, and your words were golden. I  am very impressed.
Thank you. And I want to also thank Steven for his no-doubt major part in bringing this important knowledge to us all. A very serious message from Wang Guanyu, which will make a great contribution to our collecting and to world knowledge.
Shabbat Shalom,
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Joey Silver, collecting snuff bottles since Feb.1970

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