REVELATION OF YAN MING - Preface for "Selected works by YAN MING"

LIANG DINYING, Chief Editor of LINGNAN Fine Art Publishing House

Real art works should reflect the inner feeling out of the dept of the artist's soul. They are a special carrier of the artist's personal experience of fate and the information of life. They are the place where the consciousness of life of the artist is rested. As a result, art work is a kind of personal behaviour and must be a very unique aesthetic feeling, vivid, rich and fresh. I do not advocate narrow personalism that purely drums up selfness. These advocators show no care for the social life and people around. Even those creations that reflect the radical voice of the times should be the visual expression of the artist's real consciousness and feeling of the times but absolutely not ideologically philosophized, which will lead to the expression of abstractionism and conceptionism. The cultural concept that departs from artistic original and norms being abused, the artist's personal creative power will be ruined and culture and art will become the dissimulation of concretion, ossification and abstraction.

As artistic symbols that exist only in art works, the techniques of expression, and art forms can be uncountable. They can be realism, abstract or imagism. It seems that all these are not that important. "The root of art is human emotion" (LIN FONGMING). The natural creatures can be turned into art only when they are expressed through the artist's very personal feeling and by means of artistic portrayal. A real artist should be one who must be well experienced, of high emotion quotient and have very good mastery of artistic techniques. Only then can an artist convey his feeling freely, depict the inner spirit of the natural creatures and compose the imagistic elements, the soul of the objects and the spiritual atmosphere artistically, and only when an art work is done in this way can it possess the mighty artistic charm to attract the viewers and bring them pleasure and edify their intelligence.

Confronted with professor YAN's art works, with the melody felt floating out of them, the viewers seem to be listening to the singer's unique touching voice, melodious, rich, beautiful and elegant. Here we see the artist's empressment, true feelings and gnosis, without a slightest effected, flippant, flashy and gaud. As a result, by means of art, the artist fully shows his simple and pure intendment honesty. The artistic spirit filled in the painting style of YAN MING has brought a fresh and vivid life and reviviscence to the field of aesthetics.

YAN MING's paintings of flowers and birds are in a riot of emotion painted in XIEYI style (depicting the inner meaning of the objects without being restricted by the likeness of the visual shape), free and splashing in running the brush, heavy and bright in colour dyeing get fresh and elegant, conveying an atmosphere of dept of the scenery. He has really open up a new look of Chinese painting of flowers and birds. Take "Chatting in Spring" for example. Brushwork applied in it is vigorous and rough to begin but end in a very detail and exquisite way. The vitality of the nature has been personified conveying an information of the prosperous vital force. "Moonlit Peachblosoms", "Lotus Pool", "Green Birds and Red Plum Blossoms" and "calabash" are all done in a riot of emotion, depicting the inner meaning of the objects without being restricted by their likeness. The brushwork applied is very simple and refined. The taste has reached a mysterious stage of "getting the real likeness without the real shape of the object"

In his paintings of flowers and birds or of mountains and waters, the harmony of the taste, the implication and brushwork applied can be easily felt. As for me, I would like to lay more stress on those of mountains and waters. It is under the edification of the nimbuses of the great and vigorous mountains and rivers of our motherland that fosters his noble personality, unique and far away from the earthy world and that brings him the inspiration of art creation. As the saying goes, his art works are "the trace of the spiritual visit to the great mountains and waters." In his paintings of mountains and waters, the brush strokes are powerful and vivid and the ink patches are splashed and flowing freely, incisively and vividly, conveying a verve of calligraphic style. Obviously, the artist is in pursuit of a unique artistic visual realm of his own. It can clearly seen that paintings of mountains and waters are more able to provide the artist with a carrier that will well contain his thinking and more properly convey his emotion, taste and pure feelings. He is able to fill in the mountains and waters being created with his consciousness of the nature, the dearness of human and nature and the idea of human beings' returning back to the nature. Like a prose, a painting of mountains and waters is a carrier of the expression of the personality of one's living thinking. In this carrier the artist is able to convey fully his strength of his personality and morality. Appreciating Pro. YAN's art works, one seems to be listening to his stories or chatting freely with him. It even seems that he is murmuring his feelings to the viewers, like a wave of poetry rushing and flowing in his heart, sometimes melodiously rising and falling, sometimes happily gamboling and spreeing....... It is imaginable how the viewers will be moved confronted with his art works.

The mutual comprehending between pro. YAN and the nature physically or spiritually has reached such a stage that human and nature have become synthetic. It is the great mountains and waters that edify him and enable him to realize the essence of Chinese painting of mountains and waters, with which, in turn, he expresses the souled feelings of his own. It is this syncretism that enables him to apply his mysterious brushwork to convey the magnificent stateliness of the mountains and the soulful melody of the waters. Standing in front of his paintings, one will feel himself in a solid world but the emptiness of it; in the reality of illusionism, a melodious fresh breeze touching him softly in the face. This portrayal state will never be reached by those who know only to reproduce the nature truly or follow others and repeat what others have done.

From the poetics implied in the painting, we can really taste the creative state the artist has been drunk with. Relying on his genuine knowledge, mastery of brushwork techniques and experience cumulated from his life of rich artistic practice, he is able to express his mind freely and adopt different techniques from different schools magnanimously. As a result, he is able to enter freely the realm of art creation to express his mind frankly and freely with zest and gusto. While he pour out his mind, he obtains the greatest spiritual pleasure, which, in fact, is the noblest stage that all artists wish to reach

YAN's art is realistic but without being restricted by the likeness. In appearance It is profound in implication, simple and vivid in brushwork, refined in expression and free and elegant in application of brush strokes and colour. Much as he has inherited from the Chinese tradition and absorbed from the essence of western art, he has established a unique art style of his own. He has set a typical model in the renovation of Chinese painting. In the painting "sails on LI River", a few patches of thick ink construct perfectly depict the mountains and a few strokes in grey ink convey the reflection of the mountains on the river. The village, the bamboo forest and the sails on the river seem to have done in a rather detail and careful style, suggesting a very striking contrast against the vigorous mountains done in thick ink strokes. In the painting, "steps above the Clouds", the winding stone steps are seen above the clouds loading to the sky. "The Cloud Steps" is a magnificent scene in HUANGSHAN Mountains, the vigorous force of which has been wonderfully suggested in the painting. As the saying goes, "Wandering With the natural creatures, one suddenly finds himself up on the clouds." "The Clouds and waterfall in LUSHAN Mountains " is a painting done only in a few heavy strokes, very imaginary and abstract. In the sequestered secret dept of mountains, the peaks are rising and falling indistinctly in a riot of emotion, which suggests the artist's great care for the life of the great universe and his personal feelings of it, bringing the viewers a new type of features of Chinese painting of mountains and waters. A visual melody is being played, striking the heart-strings of the viewers. In the painting "The Miles Gallery" , peaks, one next to another are lined like rows of natural buildings, standing in the ocean of mists and clouds. Bright and pure vermilion and mineral yellow are applied harmonously with dark ink, showing clearly the sunny side and the shadow of the rocks. The painting suggests a riot of colour and an attractive feeling of the result of three dimensions. The application of heavy dark ink with pure bright colours suggest a feeling of solidity, mighty and depth of the scenes depicted. The result achieved in the painting shows the real comprehension of the relation of traditional and contemporary arts and the combination of eastern art with the western art, which is one of the outstanding features of the artist's unique style. In "sunrise in HUANGSHAN Mountains" the imago result can be fully felt as the composition is so freely constructed. Compared with "First Sun Rays in HUANGSHAN Mountains", the former is the resublimation of the later, simpler, more imagistic and more emotional. As a result, it is more charming and more attractive. In the painting the sun rising in the east is put emphasis on while the last moon light still seen in the west adding a mysterious illusion to the scene, which in fact is a reflection of the artist's inner feelings got from the objective but sublimated in his mind. The HUANGSHAN Mountains under his brush emerging in his paintings are so mysterious and illusive that the viewers can't help admiring his ability of obtaining inspiration from life. As for the painting, "The YUPING Building", the composition of it is very special. Pure vermilion is applied with crossing horizontal and erect strokes in ink like calligraphy to depict the upright vermeil LIANHUA peaks, conveying the strong frames of the peaks. As the saying goes, "HUANGSHAN is the wonder of the world", which is fully expressed in the painting, in strange concept, artistic wits and vigorous brushwork and full of taste. It is nearly surprising to be able to make such achievement in portrayal art. No wonder why after being surprised, the viewers will be brought into a mysterious faery with strange imaginative and endless aftertaste. In the paintings, "The TIANDU Peaks" and "Mountains with Drunk Rocks" a vigorous atmosphere of the rolling Chain of mountains and a feeling of the moving of the whole universe arise from the running of his strange brush so freely and mellifluently.

He has got rid of ossified norms of brushwork or pursuit of certain predilection of application of strokes and ink. He has melted the norms of traditional application of brushwork and cast the essence of them into his expression of personal feelings and the need of the motif of the painting so as to found a new form of expression, full of taste and vitality. This changeful and unstinting form of visual expression, free and mellifluent and filled with the artist's personal feelings and concept is what that enable his paintings to be so fresh, unique and splendid.

This kind of beautifulness characterized by the artist's unique style of his own talent showing itself, a entirely new beautifulness of personality, beautifulness of expression of personal experience, emotion, wisdom taste and artistic techniques.

This style is fresh and beautiful because it conveys the special free and independent nature of the mountains and waters. It has been thoroughly ridded of the hackneyed and stereotyped tradition having been repeated by thousands and thousands of people. It is pure and full of vitality.

It is fresh and beautiful also because of the artist's ability to grasp the essence of Chinese traditional painting and to absorb the nutrition in western art and then to melt them in contemporary concept. The harmonious melting of western artistic beauty with that of Chinese brushwork and the spirit of Chinese art founds on entirely new system of Chinese contemporary painting of mountains and waters.

The great charm of YAN MING's art works arises from the artist's hearty fosterage and careful refinement. The graces of an art master, plain, frank, genuine and magnanimous, is the rejuvenescence after the cumulation and subtle evolution of his whole- life hardworking. His art creation is the crystal of his rich knowledge, cultivation and personality being melted into a unity.

In the 30s of the 20 century YAN MING was a student of HANGZHOU Art College and SHANGHAI Public Fine Art College founded by LIN FONGMING and LIU HAISU, who laid the foundation of contemporary Chinese painting. In these colleges there were the great masters WU FUZHI, WANG SHENYUAN, CHANG HONGWEI, PAN TIANSHOU, XIE GONGZHAN and WANG YACHEN, who had brought up a great number of well known artists in China.

"He inaugurated new Chinese painting with his powerful brushwork. He combined Chinese traditional painting and calligraphy with the western concept of form, colour and composition. Thus he succeded in setting a unique style of his own, free and natural. His inauguration enables the Chinese artists to express their perfect Sinitic feelings in contemporary way, by means of western concept getting rid of ......", is a comment made by pro. Mic. Suliven, historian of eastern art. This is an accurate and objective comment on LIN FONGMING's historical contribution to Chinese art. In his analysis on the situation of Chinese contemporary art, we realize that the artistic cause inaugurared by early masters repressented by XU BEIHONG and LIN FONGMING has early indicated that a new age of the renovation of the Chinese painting has begun. In this great cause a generation of excellent artists were playing their important roles. They are LI KERAN, HU YICHUANG, WANG SHIGE, They LO GONGLIU, DONG XIWEN, LI QUN, WANG CHAOWEN, YAN HAN, ZHAO WUJI, WU GUANGZHONG, etc and YAN MING, of course, is one among them.

Pro, YAN MING has been under the guidance of many famous masters, from whom he inherits and improves their renovative spirit. He has directly improved PAN TIANSHOU's painting style of applying rough and free brush strokes in length and breadth with patches of thick ink, suggesting the beautifulness of refinement and elegance. He has also learned a lot from great masters SHI TAO, BADA and WU CHONGSHUO, absorbing and improving their artistic essence.

Along the venation of YAN MING's procedure of art creation we can understand clearly his personality and his art. YAN MING's art works have again awoken the real soul of Chinese painting of mountains and waters. His solid ability enables him to connect the rich sources of Chinese traditional painting of mountains and waters to the affluent spring of contemporary painting of mountains and waters, ideologically, conceptionally, artistically and emotionally, which suggests the return of the spirit of the painting of mountains and waters itself and the variety of its forms and tastes. It is an edification for us to learn from his works in the aspects of self- consciousness of the spirit of the nature itself, the variety of forms, the refinement of artistic language, personal creativity and contemporary emotion.

It is not an aggrandizement to say that Pro. YAN's art has reached a certain artistic extremity as its profound implication of life, and the mighty artistic power of expression strike the viewers' heart, bringing them an impressive psychological feelings, which suggest that Pro. YAN's art possesses surprising vitality. He is a talent of emotionality, In his old age as he is, he is always in fine feather. He is now in the most pleasant state both in his life and in his art. His art creation and spirit is an essential message for us to realize the profound meaning, especially that of the Chinese painting of mountains and waters.

December, 1996, GUANGZHOU.
(LIANG DINYIN, Director of GUANGDONG Artists Association, Former Chief Editor of LINGNAN Fine Art Publishing House.)