China offers Art lovers a variety of Chinese Art Paintings. Read this interview with a Chinese Art Gallery owner in Beijing’s 798 Art district
Paintings, folk arts, silk, calligraphy, pottery, sculpting, metal arts and paper-cuts are all areas in which art in China has been thriving over a period of thousands of years. Chinese art is perhaps one of the most ancient and influential art cultures in the world. Despite long lasting prosperity, it was in the era of Mao Ze-Dong that art in China suffered a fatal blow. Government policy at the time influenced art creation: If art were presented in a manner that favored the government, artists would be heavily promoted; If art clashed with government policies or agenda, it would not be exposed to the public and would be destroyed. The peak era of government control came under the cultural revolution, in which the most notable event was the “destruction of the four olds” (old customs, old culture, old habits, and old ideas), which had major consequences for pottery, paintings, literary art, architecture and countless others.
In an interview with Cathrine Cheng, an art gallery owner in 798, the art district of Beijing, Laowaiblog explores whether Chinese Art Paintings have progressed since the cultural revolution and whether Chinese art it is entering a new era of resurrection:
“Art in China is a very sensitive issue, because artists cannot completely express their true opinions in their work”. What do you think about that statement?
“This statement is simply wrong and out of place. Painters of Chinese art paintings have more freedom to express themselves in their work than writers or authors who often touch sensitive words that trigger reaction by the government. As far as visual art is concerned, an artist in China is free to convey any message he/she chooses, with the exception of art that deals with Mao Ze-Dong. The Mao issue is still very sensitive, and artists (in China) must be careful not to portray him in bad situations or positions, otherwise their work will be removed.”
What about other topics? Is it really free of supervision?
“Yes. You can look around this compound (798), 99% of the art here is not censored: Despite the fact that policy makers might not sympathize with their work, artists are free to display erotics and often express political dismay through their work.”
At this point, Ms. Cheng points at some provocative dragon sculptures.
“Do you think that these sculptures are political? Everyone knows what these dragons symbolize. They are very famous sculptures that were made by a controversial artist, yet they are still here. The advantage that visual art entails over the written word is that it is more abstract and one has to extract meaning and self-conclude from the art itself. As long as artists do not bluntly express (in writing mostly) their discontent with the government or with its policies, there is no problem with presenting visual art publicly.”
The education system in the West often encourages youth to be creative and innovative, and that mentality allows art to blossom. What do you think about the influence that the education system has on Chinese art paintings?
“The education system in China is a very rigid system that prepares students for exams. However, as far as art in China is concerned, I don’t agree that the education method is too rigid. In art schools, students are often encouraged to express themselves by creating and by connecting with their inner selves. They are learning how to explore new ideas and how to express these ideas in their art. I know many professors and teachers in the art academy who always encourage their students to free-think and to self express. You can see here (in 798) that many artists express themselves freely and that they are only constrained by their own creativity.”
China has progressed greatly in the field of art just in the past ten years.
“Yes. In the past, just thirty years ago, it was all propaganda, and art education was all Russian socialist realistic. But even this type of art has granted artists with a strong foundation, and they are now famous in the art world. Chinese art has gained popularity across the world, and it is now one of the hottest art markets in the world.”
Chinese Art Paintings is increasingly exhibited overseas. Is that a loss for China?
“Not at all. For example, I am going to bring one of the artists who I represent to the Netherlands and to Switzerland, and he is very happy to present his work there. A Chinese artist presenting his work in Europe should be regarded as a complement to China; This is an indicator that Chinese art is blossoming again. Many foreign gallery managers are looking for great Chinese artists – they are like hunters, they come to China to look for great artists in order to bring interesting art back to their local communities.”
What do you think is the future of art in China?
“In general I think the market is still very young, and you can see how it is booming now; The world has been deprived of Chinese art for decades, and it seems that many want to see more of this art, not only because it has not been around for so long but also because it displays and expresses emotions and sentiments that are unfamiliar in the west. By looking at art in China, we can learn much about Chinese history, philosophy and customs.”
“In general, I feel like the renaissance period is approaching: This is just the beginning of what might be a new art era for China.”