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Museum of Art shows New Literati Painting

The exhibition "New Literati Painting", currently on show at the Hong Kong Museum of Art until November, features more than 100 paintings selected from its collection by artists who rose to prominence and built an art world of their own in the 1980s, the so-called "fiery red years," in China.

"New Literati Painting" is neither an art organisation with a specific manifesto nor a regional school with a distinctive style. It may be seen as a coincidental movement or a collective behaviour that represented the common goal and reflections of artists and their contemporaries against the background of the great political and social changes after the Cultural Revolution. Artists in this movement were mainly the generations born between the 1940s and the 1960s, who experienced the early era of New China and the Cultural Revolution.

The term New Literati Painting emerged in the tide of "Cultural Revival" in the mid 1980s, and became the most debated topic among artists and art critics. Between the first "Joint Exhibition of Chinese Painting from Northern and Southern China" in 1987 and the "Chinese New Literati Painting Annual Exhibition 1989", a group of artists gradually came together under the flag of "New Literati Painting". Continuing with a series of annual exhibitions and symposiums throughout the decade until the mid 1990s, the movement addressed contemporary issues that best illustrated the changing times.

The artists selected for this exhibition include Fang Jin (1943-), Zeng Mi (1944-), Liao Lu (1944-), Yang Gang (1946-), Nie Ou (1948-), Lu Fusheng (1949-), Chang Jin (1953-), Zhu Xinjian (1953-), Yang Chunhua (1953-), Shao Fei (1954-), Ma Xiaojuan (1955-), Tian Liming (1955-), Jiang Hongwei (1957-), Yu Qiping (1957-), Zhou Jingxin (1959-), Lu Yushun (1962-), Zhang Xiuzhu, Song Yulin (1947- ) and many others who  participated in the "Chinese New Literati Painting Annual Exhibitions". These artists are varied in age, native place and occupation, ranging from professor or principal of an art academy to young freelance painter. Through a brief survey of their works, the exhibition reveals the nation-wide and crossover influence of the movement and its significance to the contemporary Chinese art scene.

Artists labelled as new literati painters had simultaneously broken away from the stereotypical creations based on the principle of "art serving politics" and ignored the dominant "revolutionary model painting" in the heyday of the Cultural Revolution. They depict objects and figures of everyday life in their works to reawaken sensitivity to reality, incorporating figures and narratives from classical literature to rediscover the essence of traditional literati arts. A quintessential aspect of their work was its appropriation not only of images and themes, but also of the techniques, content and contexts of classical Chinese painting, particularly the literati tradition. The artists freely used traditional Chinese painting techniques, the artistic characteristics of comics, folk art, prints, and visual language that borrowed from Western art to create a new visibility for contemporary Chinese painting. They expanded their vision to a new horizon by rendering remote landscapes in northwest China, distant villages in southwest provinces and even imaginative realms, rather than just the lyrical Jiangnan (south of the Yangzi River). Some familiar imagery that appeared in Chinese avant-garde cinema, such as the interior of a traditional house, a remote corner of the Yellow Plateau and a panoramic view of rural herding, were also widely employed in their art. Both the classics and popular novels served as rich literary sources for the artists to draw new inspiration. Through these diverse representations of new literati painting, the artists showed their free spirit and energetic creativity, marking the approach of a new social atmosphere and new ways of life.

The Museum of Art is located at 10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. It opens from 10am to 6pm from Sunday to Wednesday and on Fridays, and from 10am to 8pm on Saturdays. It is closed on Thursdays (except public holidays). Admission is $10 and a half-price concession is available to full-time students, senior citizens and people with disabilities. Admission is free on Wednesdays.

"Lovesickness", 1990, by Zhu Xinjian (1953- ).
"Lovesickness", 1990, by Zhu Xinjian (1953- ).

Source: GovHK (