A duet of life plus color

Rantoul Press columnist

I was born and raised in Kunming, which is the capital city of Yunnan Province of China.

Since I came to the Midwest in the early 1990s Yunnan art has become so dear to my heart.

The first time I introduced Yunnan art to our local community was through the exhibition “Beyond the Colored Clouds” at the Parkland College Art Gallery in 2003. Five years later in 2008 I curated a follow-up exhibition of contemporary Yunnan art titled “In Front of the Colored Clouds” held at the Illini Union Art Gallery of the Illinois University.

For these two previous Yunnan art exhibitions I tried to show our local viewers a rather comprehensive overview of Yunnan art in terms of its history, styles and new movements.

I am proud and excited to present the current exhibition at Springer Cultural Center to our Midwest viewers. Unlike my previous Yunnan art exhibitions’ macro horizon, this exhibition focuses on deep philosophical insights and vigorous cultural expressions of two art faculty of the Yunnan University College of Art and Design in China.

Duan Xue Jing was born in 1973 in south China. She studied painting and printmaking in China, Singapore and Paris. Currently she serves as the director of Art and Design Department of Yunnan University in Kunming of China.

As an art educator and artist her main interest is in oil painting.  

By the artwork on display in this exhibition Duan Xue Jing takes us to her personal deep insight — a subtle and surreal world. Although she paints in the classic Western Surrealism style with careful composition and total control of all elements of her painting with flow and color interactions, we can often see her incorporation of traditional Chinese philosophy and psychology into her painting landscape. As one of her exhibition curators pointed out in the past, “Every  background is an imaginary landscape, ethereal and beautiful, far away from reality but close to the traditional Chinese landscape.

“Her paintings blend melancholy and tragedy, sometimes gloomy but yet beautiful. She involves us in the world of her self-created dolls: tender and terrifying at the same time” (Raquel Aranda and Raquel Santamaria, TRIBECA Art Gallery).

Wang Xinman was born in 1976 in Kunming, Yunnan Province of China. She graduated from Yunnan Art College in 2001 with a degree in art and design.

In 2010 she graduated from Yunnan University with a master’s degree in art and anthropology. Xinman pursued her graduate studies under the renowned anthropologist Dr. He Ming, publishing many papers and articles. Since 2001 she has been teaching at Yunnan University College of Art and Design. She is a member of Yunnan’s Chinese Artist Association and an associate research fellow of Chinese art at the Chinese Academy of Fine Arts.

Xinman explores the intersection of Western art and Asian culture, using contemporary styles and techniques to express modern Chinese themes. For Western viewers, her painting is in the style of or influenced by the French Impressionist painter Henri Matisse.

But for me, I can also see some cultural elements of the Yunnan School of Heavy Color Painting, which was started more than 30 years ago by a group of artists working in Yunnan to celebrate the customs and lives of the ethnic minorities who inhabit China’s subtropical southwestern province of Yunnan. The ceaseless efforts of this group of artists’ artistic exploration soon gave rise to an entire school of painting that came to be known as the Yunnan School of Painting.

Since then the Yunnan School of Painting has gained critical international acclaim and established itself firmly in the Chinese art history. Its stylistic vocabulary and topical themes are characterized by uniformity in line work, bold usage of colors, a love for overlapping geometric design and a daring combination of both traditional Chinese form and Western abstract art, depicting subjects that centered on the indigenous ethnic people, culture and myths of the Yunnan province.

Because Duan’s paintings are such profound life assays and Wang’s colorful and cultural expressions are so vigorous, I am pleased to be able to exhibit their paintings together as a duet of life and color.  

The exhibition is on display now through Feb. 28 at the Champaign Park District Springer Cultural Center, 301 North Randolph St., Champaign.
For comments or inquiries related to the please contact me at the email address below.

Dr. Ian Wang is the curator of the Spurlock Museum and may be contacted by e-mail: wangyu@illinois.edu


Categories (2):Columns, Opinions


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