Fan Di’an Xu Longsen’s Chinese Landscape Painting- Inheriting Tradition and Embracing Modernity

2011-07-06 14:40

Globalization is a new opportunity for art; meanwhile, it is also a challenge. For Chinese artists with a long cultural tradition, the challenge is particularly pressing. On one hand, they have to create artworks with contemporary cultural attributes and visual elements in a global context; on the other hand, they have to find inspiration in their own art tradition and exhibit creativity in the new context. Understanding this is very important to understanding contemporary Chinese art. Chinese artist, Xu Longsen, through his super-size landscape paintings and through his understanding of tradition and modernity, has provided us with a substantial answer, which allows us to understand the spirit of his artworks, the characters of Chinese tradition and the cross-culture capability of contemporary art.

The history of Chinese landscape painting is the history of Chinese painting. The Chinese began representing and comprehending the world with landscape painting. For the Chinese, landscape paintings are representations of nature and the environment they live in, meanwhile their understanding of the universe. More importantly, landscape paintings are expressions of the artists’ spirit and integrity, reflecting their sentiments and great care for nature. The Chinese thinker and philosopher Confucius once said, the compassionate enjoys mountain, and the intelligent enjoys river. In Chinese landscape painting, we can see not only magnificent natural landscapes, but also the artist’s spirit. Xu Longsen’s paintings are a very good example of this, which embody his audacity to inherit meanwhile transcending tradition.

Xu Longsen has studied many classic Chinese landscape paintings. When he executes his works, he has transcended all existing rules to pursue the essence of Chinese landscape painting. In doing so, he has fully integrated himself into nature. The modern elements of his works are great breakthroughs and have brought new possibilities to landscape painting. His paintings are drawn from his spirit and optimized for the public space. By being Eastern or Western, classical or modern, his landscape paintings measuring tens of meters long are immediately defamiliarized when they enter into a public space. His works interact with the audience and different cultures in a very unique way.

To the domain of Chinese landscape painting, Xu Longsen’s meteoric rise is unexpected; but for him, it is the predictable result of his constant study and pursuit. He has thoroughly studied the classical landscape paintings of various dynasties and has approached the intrinsic nature of landscape painting. Meanwhile, he has also been meditating on the principles of foreign art to broaden his vision. When he paints, he breaks every barrier, rule and form to unleash his emotions. He immerses himself in his landscape paintings and enters a state of inner peace. In doing so, he not only purifies his spirit, but also redefines the meaning of magnificence in the new context.

Xu Longsen’s touring exhibition in Europe is actually a visit of his personal art and is a response to European civilization from the East. I believe that this is just a start of the new interaction between the two great civilizations and the best is yet to come.

Fan Di’an
Director of National Art Museum of China
Jun. 2011