Wu Guanzhong - China's Greatest Contemporary Artist
Wu Guanzhong (1919–2010) is one of the most important artists of twentieth-century China. Born in Jiangsu Province, Wu studied art at the National Academy of Art in Hangzhou (today’s China Academy of Art) and, from 1947, in Paris at the École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts. He returned to China after three years and taught at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing.
Wu’s work with a thematic focus illuminating the rich historical legacy of ink painting in China, and also representing his radical individual style steeped in his strong belief in formalist principles. Wu pushed the boundaries of our understanding of how a traditional medium of ink can be made new for a new century.
Some other works by Wu show influences of painters from the Song dynasty (960–1279) to the Qing dynasty (1644–1911) in the compositions and the types of brushstrokes he uses to add a variation in texture and an atmospheric effect. However, he has also created works that are fundamentally different from the tradition, particularly in his use of bright colours, liberal use of wash, and radical compositions based on an interest in formalism.
Where traditional ink paintings emphasized the grandeur and majesty of the natural environment over small-scale pavilions or other architectural elements, the most distinct compositions that Wu created are found in those paintings depicting rural yet grand homes and towns that emphasize a constructed, man-made environment. Rather than including buildings as a small part of painting, he extracted geometric beauty and a structural rhythm from architecture. To Wu, whether artists are painting buildings, mountains, rivers, grass, or trees, it is of primary importance that they paint with feeling.
His works highlight the abstract components in his paintings i.e. dots, lines and cubes through which he conveyed his unique sense of beauty. Wu captured seemingly unimportant details in everyday life extracted the essence of their beauty for injection into his paintings.