2018 CAMBRIDGE XU ZHIMO POETRY AND ART FESTIVAL
The Yu Hui Solo Art Exhibition, 24 Seasons of Chinese Plants in a Year “The use of meticulous brushstrokes (gong bi hua 工筆畫 in Chinese) is a particular style of Chinese painting, opposite to free style (xie yi寫意). It involves careful observation of nature, a good eye and energy when executing brushstrokes. Therefore, it can only be executed at a certain age while the artist still has good eyesight. The category of Flower and Bird painting covers a broad range of subjects such as flowers, birds, fruit, insects, fish and even domestic animals. Flower and Bird subjects are the second most popular type of Chinese paintings, next to landscape.
Painting flower and bird scenes using meticulous brushstrokes began in the Tang dynasty (618-907 AD), but flourished in the Song dynasty (960-1127). Song dynasty artists carefully reproduced details of nature, so that viewers can even tell the time when a painting was completed by looking at the pupils of a cat in a painting, for example. However, it was not until the Italian missionary Giuseppe Castiglione (19 July 1688-17 July 1766) arrived in Imperial China that traditional flower and bird court painting was transformed; they became even more realistic, with the introduction of shadows and the use of perspective. As a result, court paintings became more three dimensional and vivid in colour.
The twentieth century was another turning point for Chinese art, with exposure to influences and techniques from Europe. Some of the artists even studied in Paris. It was a challenge for a Chinese artist in the 20th century to create a new style from traditional Chinese painting.
Yu Hui (1960- ) from Tongshan county 銅山縣, Jiangsu province, is one of the most famous contemporary Chinese painters. Under her father’s influence, she also studied flower and bird painting using meticulous brushstrokes. Unlike other artists, her paintings follow a traditional Song style—careful observation, balancing compositions with seals and calligraphy, as well as elegant brushstrokes. However, they also express her own unique personality. Her masterpiece, ‘Jasmine flower’, has been selected by King’s College,
Cambridge as the cover of a CD by the King’s Choir.
Her recent work, “24 Seasons of Chinese Plants in a Year”, exhibited here combines meticulous brushstrokes with free style, creating an effect that is similar to watercolour in the west. The ancient Chinese created a lunar calendar, dividing a year into 24 segments within four seasons based on the observations of the sun’s annual motion. The system provides a time frame for agriculture, daily life and festivals. The eating of seasonal foods according to the weather and attending certain activities according to different segments would maintain harmony with the universe and achieve immortality. In this exhibition, Yu Hui lists 24 different plants according to the 24 segments, including the Iris to represent the beginning of Summer (Li Xia 立夏), whilst cherry tomatoes represent Cold Dew (Han Lu 寒露). In her paintings, many new varieties of flowers have appeared in Chinese art for the first time.”
During the festival Cam Rivers Publishing also jointly hosted a porcelain painting exhibition with the China Jingdezhen Modern Art Museum, which was supported by the China National Arts Fund and the Vanishing Worlds Foundation, in the Michaelhouse centre, Cambridge. Cambridge. More about the exhibition can be found here.