During the long months of lockdown and quarantine I decided to research the history of Chinese art – especially the various painterly techniques used by the East Asian ancient masters. It has helped to sharpen my eye and increase my repertoire of techniques. In the months and years to come I look forward to integrating some of what I have learned into my own work.
My ink wash paintings that were inspired by East Asian masters are signed with my personal name seal but also the Chinese characters fu gu which could be translated as ‘revival’, ‘in pursuit of antiquity’ or ‘repossessing the past’.
The integration of the traditional with the contemporary is a sophisticated relationship in the East, whereas we in the West now seem only to favour popular culture. Although in the West to copy a painting is considered to be only a part of the learning process and the ‘originality’ of the artwork is the supreme criteria, in the East a painter strives to achieve a spiritual connection with a great master and to comprehend the essential in the original artwork; the result is often a valued work of art in its own right.
In the words Maxwell K Hearn: “Orthodox painters did not merely reinvigorate the past, they reinvented it.”
Click here to see more of my landscape paintings inspired by my study of the East Asian Masters.
From 1-8 August 2019 I had my first solo exhibition in the Chapel of King’s College, Cambridge. In this grand setting, some of my recent ink wash paintings in the Chinese tradition were displayed on 24 easels as part of the Fifth Cambridge Xu Zhimo Festival of Poetry and Arts. Xu Zhimo (1897-1931) was a Chinese poet who studied at King’s College, 1921-22; he wrote a poem called ‘A Second Farewell to Cambridge’ which has since been learned by heart by every Chinese school child.
Also as part of the Fifth Cambridge Xu Zhimo Festival of Poetry and Arts, I held a further solo exhibition in King’s College Art Room from 11-16 August where more of my ink wash paintings and some of my prints were displayed. I self-published a small brochure (with the assistance of Shaun Betson of University of Cambridge Reprographics Centre) to explain more about my paintings.
Further information is in an anthology of my work, A Journey Eastwards: Reflections on Chinese Ink and Watercolour Paintings, which was published in 2018 by Cam Rivers Publishing.