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Going Adrift—The Creative Discourse onKao Yung Lung's Heavy-Color Paintings
Kao Yung -Lung
Modern heavy-color painting
The painting techniques and expression through color in Chinese paintings have evolved for centuries. Initially, the paint was made from natural mineral pigments. Later, herbal pigments were also used. Together they helped create the genre of bright green and blue-green heavy-color paintings. As the expression through color reached its height, it also spurred the development of new ideas and styles of Chinese paintings. The new trends reflected upon or even resisted the prevailing style, and focused on the color’s potential to reflect philosophical and metaphysical concepts. In the following centuries, traditional Chinese paintings mainly consisted of light colors and gradations of black ink. The introduction of Western paintings to China in the 19th century also enriched the expressions of Chinese paintings. Bright and saturated colors found in Western paintings and Chinese folk decorations were integrated. Since the 1910s, Chinese painting artists have been enthusiastic in improving the expression through color. Even though each school—the traditional school, the eclectic school, the Western school and the reformist school—has their own theories and approaches to reform Chinese painting, they share the same aspiration in the expression through color. Innovations and breakthroughs of color in Chinese painting have continued until this day. Modern heavy-color painting is the last among waves of color reform in the history of modern Chinese painting. Heavy-color painting was once categorized as the Northern School or the Academic Painting. But when literati paintings began to flourish and later dominated the Chinese art scene, heavy-color painting was marginalized. Modern Chinese painting reform, which also focused on the use of color, gave heavy-color painting new forms. The style, medium and history of modern Japanese painting also enriched and created new possibilities for modern heavy-color painting. The frequent exchange between China and Japan has galvanized the development of such genre, resulted in creating three terms to describe the same genre: glue painting in Taiwan, and heavy-color painting or mineral painting in China. The different origins, concepts, courses of development and styles represented by these three terms have become new topics for research. Modern heavy-color painting gained popularity in both Taiwan and China almost simultaneously. It is not a mere coincidence, however, but an inevitable development. Its revival represents the reflection and reactionary movement against mainstream Chinese painting. Spiritually, it is a reengineering process that fuses globalization with the old traditions. In its form, the revival could complement the lack of color that has long characterized Chinese painting. Glue painting and mineral-color painting are still terms used to describe a new genre. Their origins and complicated history have drawn much controversies and criticisms. However, the rapid development of modern heavy-color painting in recent years reaffirms the value of such genre and its huge developmental potential. Stemming from traditional roots, modern heavy-color painting has incorporated a wide range of techniques and expressions commonly used in modern art, as many artists of this genre are bold in experimenting and exploring new possibilities for Chinese painting. Traditional Chinese painting was the starting point of my personal creative experience. But I later shifted my focus to the research in heavy-color painting, and I have committed myself to creating such works ever since. When faced with dilemmas of how to create a new work—whether to follow the old traditions or to seek new paths, to preserve one’s own cultural heritage or to sway with the tide of globalization, one can always look back in history and gain some refreshing insights. Yet, what really matters is the creative work itself. The most fundamental issue an artist must answer is what medium to choose and how to apply it. Mineral pigments, animal and herbal glues are essential for heavy-color painting. By analyzing and comparing the painting equipments, the painting techniques and forms of expression, I hope to gain a comprehensive understanding of heavy-color painting.
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