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Qing Yang and her Spiritual Gardens


Two years ago, I conceived the conceptual framework based loosely around the idea of intercultural identity for Cultural Fusion based on my own experience as a migrant living in Australia, primarily aiming to provide a platform for Asian artists due to the lack of venues that exhibit their works in Brisbane. Since then, Cultural Fusion has evolved from featuring works of Brisbane-based Asian artists to other parts of the world – London – where I had the opportunity to mentor emerging curator Alison Lo and showcase a selection of work by London-based Asian artists.


The focus of the last iteration of Cultural Fusion was still based on the question of intercultural identity. It considered how these artists developed their practice and underwent transformations by examining how their heritage and experience living in London informed their art.


In this third iteration of Cultural Fusion, I realise intercultural identity is not limited to how artists express their “expanded” identity through the production of art; it can also be explored through the development of new techniques or concepts. Here, the term intercultural identity, defined by scholars Glory Ovie and Lena Barrantes, refers to an individual's ability to grow beyond their original culture and encompass a new culture, gaining additional insight into both cultures in the process. It is a gradual psychological evolution of one’s self-conception and self-perception within a distinct social and cultural group to an intercultural way of relating to oneself and others from different social and cultural groups.[1] In the context of art, intercultural identity is usually manifested as a "content" or "narrative" that underpins the artwork. At other times, intercultural identity enables artists to consider how to develop new ideas or new techniques based on their unique social/cultural experience in their newly adopted home.      


This realisation of how intercultural identity helps artists to develop new ideas forms the basis of this iteration of Cultural Fusion. Rather than looking at artists' new experiences or personal transformation, the focus shifts to the artist's ability to innovate or enrich a particular idea, and this can be seen through the work of Qing Yang, a Chinese artist who received her art education at the Shandong University of Art and China Academy of Art and recently completed her Doctor of Visual Arts at the Queensland College of Art in Brisbane, Australia. In her investigation, Yang explored how specific colours and compositions convey spirituality and sought to consider what makes a painting compelling by analysing form and spirituality across Chinese and Western paintings.[2]

When I first read Yang’s thesis, I was intrigued by how the artist approached the subject matter based on her own understanding of Chinese and Western paintings. As mentioned above, Yang received her early art education from the China Academy of Art; her knowledge of Chinese painting is well-grounded, given that she graduated from one of the top art schools in China. Her interest in the exploration of forms and, later, in her study of Chinese landscape painting in Contemporary Chinese Landscape Paintings: Genealogies of Form reminds me of Hong Ling, one of the first generation of contemporary scholar painters who is known for integrating traditional Chinese landscape ideas into his oil painting.[3]


I remember Hong’s work distinctively because he was one of the few scholar painters (also known as literati painters) experimenting with traditional Chinese landscape painting using oil as a medium.[4]   Chinese landscape painting has a very long history, dating back to the 5th century, and Chinese artists have been experimenting with this genre of painting with various subject matters and concepts; these include Zhan Ziqian’s “Spring Outing”,  Wei Jin’s “Landscape Poems”, Gu Kaizhi’s “Painting Yintai Mountain” and Zong Bing’s “Preface to Painting Landscape.” Like his predecessors, Hong shares with them a love of nature and his desire to be fully immersed in the world and its environment (a Taoist way of life). The artist considered the experience and learning of a new technique a challenge and a purely spiritual and psychological journey that satisfied his creativity and curiosity.[5] 


Similarly, Yang explores the question of spirituality in painting by examining how certain colours and compositions can trigger emotional and psychological responses. She compared various methods utilised by Western and Chinese artists. She went on to explain how she combined both methods in her work with a particular focus on how breath energy found in Chinese landscape painting (shansui painting), the “spiritual” was generated by the transformation of yin and yang polarities and polarities of physical forms while the idea of form found in western paintings is dominated by modern formalism with the method of autonomous arrangement of compositions that function directly on aesthetic and emotion.


Yang’s expansion of these ideas is evident in this body of works, Spiritual Gardens. How the artist approached the theme and her synthesis in integrating Chinese and Western elements into her work are displayed in The 7th Garden, The 9th Garden with Taihu Stones and A Garden. Yang described her method in the artist's statement: "In the round format fan paintings, I still applied more Chinese drawing method by using a typical corner composition inspired from the Chinese Song Dynasty and focusing on close-up scenery. Looking through the finite depictions may enable viewers to associate the infinite landscape. The round format leads the eyes to track the circle and break the habit of viewing hierarchically from a rectangular landscape painting. The transformation of the clarity and vagueness, the void and filled are the main method”. Her treatment of painting featured some aspects of the Six Principles of Chinese Paintings developed by Xie He, namely, qiyun (Spirit Resonance), yingwu (Correspondence to the Object), suilei (Suitability to Type), and jingying (Division and Planning) while application of Western painting technique, such as wash, splattering, dabbing, texturing and detailing were also employed.


Likewise, in Cathedral 1, Cathedral 2, Cathedral 3, and the Interior of Saint Stephen Cathedral and the Interior of Saint John Series, strong yet spontaneous lines, one of the vital elements in Chinese ink painting, were featured. The artist played with the idea of exploring the notion of spirituality using Western religious symbols and colours while Chinese painting techniques were applied to the series. As the artist pointed out, “the colours chosen are blue, black, green, and white which are referred to represent spiritual in Kandinsky’s theory: “Concerning the Spiritual in Art”. One interesting point worth noting is that the above-mentioned Garden series also showed a similar viewpoint or intention, manifested through the use of Western painting techniques (i.e. Chinese subject matter/theme and Western painting technique). 


The corridor paintings also showed an integration of Chinese and Western painting methods. Unlike the Garden Series and Cathedral Series, the artist employed a multi-perspective method inspired by Chinese shanshui paintings, Paul Cezanne’s multi-view ideas on landscape and life still paintings, Russian icon paintings and reverse perspective, and David Hockney’s multi-view landscape paintings. The resulting work showed a very complex composition loaded with Western perspective drawing methods and bright colours while, at the same time, emphasising the significance of form in shaping the qiyun (Spirit Resonance) and jingying (Division and Planning) of the painting.   


As I pondered the question of intercultural identity at the beginning of this essay, artists such as Yang, Hong and other Chinese scholar painters have demonstrated that innovation is possible when artists are exposed to different cultures. Although traditional Chinese painting has a very long history and tradition, the interpretations offered by Yang show respect for her cultural roots while acknowledging that traditional Chinese landscape painting could greatly benefit from cultural exchange.   


As the curator for this iteration of Cultural Fusion, I am delighted to see how Asian artists such as Yang seek to explore new ideas and concepts through their interaction with other cultures. I hope Cultural Fusion will continue to become a platform for this artistic experimentation in the coming years.

Curator: Dr Martha Liew

Creative Director: Karen Liew


[1] Glory Ovie (The King's University, Edmonton, Canada) and Lena Barrantes (University of Calgary, Canada), “Understanding Intercultural Socialization and Identity Development of International Students Through Duo ethnography,” Multidisciplinary Perspectives on International Student Experience in Canadian Higher Education, 2021, p. 20

[2] Qing Yang, ‘Chinese garden and cathedral paintings (or spiritual and form): conversation between Chinese and the West, PhD thesis, Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, submitted in August 2023.

[3] Other great Chinese artists, such as Chang Shuhong (1904 – 1994), Wu Guangzhou (1919 – 2010), and Zao Wou-Ki (1920 – 2013), combine traditional Chinese painting with Western elements. I cited Hong Ling because he is one of the few artists focusing exclusively on landscape painting and emphasising spirituality.

[4] Oil painting was only introduced to China in the past 100 years. 

[5] Alexa Beatriz, “10 Minutes With...Renowned Chinese Landscape Painter Hong Ling,” Jing Daily, 6 Nov 2012. 



两年前,我根据自己作为移民在澳大利亚生活的经历, 为《文化荟萃》艺术平台构思了一个概念框架,该框架大致地围绕着跨文化身份的概念展开。当时,我的主要目的是为亚洲艺术家提供一个平台,因为在布里斯班缺乏展示他们作品的场所。从那时起,《文化荟萃》的平台从展出布里斯班亚洲艺术家的作品发展到展出其他国家地区,比如在伦敦的亚洲艺术家的作品,并给我一个机会指导新晋策展人盧巧慧,去展示这些驻伦敦艺术家的精选作品。


而在这一次《文化荟萃》展览中,我意识到跨文化身份意义不仅限于艺术家通过艺术创作探索如何表达其扩展的身份;它还可以通过发展新技术或新概念来探索。在此,学者格洛里-奥维(Glory Ovie)和莉娜-巴兰特斯(Lena Barrantes)对“跨文化身份”进行了定义,即指一个人理解其原有文化之外并很好的容纳接受新文化的能力,在此过程中对两种文化都有更多的了解。即一个人在独特的社会和文化群体中的,自我认知和自我感知向跨文化方式的逐步心理演变,即是与自己和来自不同社会和文化群体的他人的关系。而在艺术领域上,跨文化特性通常表现为支撑艺术作品的 "内容 "或 "叙事"。在其他情况下,跨文化身份认同使艺术家能够考虑如何根据他们在新接触的环境中独特的社会/文化经历来发展新思想或新技术。




当我第一次读到杨的论文时,我对她如何根据自己对中西方绘画的理解来处理主题感到好奇。如上文所述,杨早年在中国美术学院接受美术教育,毕业于中国顶尖的美术学院之一,因此她对中国画的了解是有根基的。她对形式探索的兴趣在《当代中国山水画的研究: 形式的谱系》得出來的结果让我想起了洪凌。洪是当代第一代文人画家之一,以将中国传统山水理念融入油画创作而著称。


我之所以对洪的作品印象深刻,是因为他是为数不多的以油画为媒介尝试中国传统山水画的文人画家(又称文人画家)之一。   中国山水画历史悠久,可追溯到公元五世纪,中国艺术家一直在尝试这种题材和观念各异的画种。这一时期的有很多有关山水的艺术作品,其中包括展子虔的《游春图》、魏晋的山水诗、顾恺之的《画云台山记》和宗炳的《画山水序》。与前辈们一样,洪也热爱大自然,渴望完全沉浸在天地环境中(道家的生活方式)。洪认为体验和学习新技法是一种挑战,也是一次纯粹的精神和心理之旅,它满足了他的创造力和好奇心。


同样,杨探索了绘画中的灵性问题,研究了某些色彩和构图如何引发情感和心理反应。她比较了中西方艺术家使用的各种方法。她接着解释了自己如何在作品中将这两种方法结合起来,并特别强调了中国山水画(山水画)中的气息能量,"灵性 "是如何通过阴阳两极和形体两极的转换而产生的,而西方绘画中的形式观念是由现代形式主义主导的,其方法是自主安排构图(不受制于客观实物,而更加利用画面的平面性,专注画面点线面因素的合理布局),直接作用于审美和情感。


杨对这些理念的拓展在这组作品《精神花园》中显而易见。在《园系列之七》、《园与太湖石系列之九》和《一座花园》中,可以清楚地看到艺术家是如何处理这一主题的,以及她是如何将中西元素综合运用到作品中的。杨在艺术家自述中描述了她的创作方法: "在圆形扇面画中,我运用了更多的中国绘画方法,采用了典型的边角构图,灵感来自中国宋代团扇,侧重于体现特写景物。透过有限的景物描绘,观众可以联想到无限的风景。圆形的画幅引导视线追踪圆形,打破了从长方形山水画分层观看的习惯。明与虚、空与满的转换是主要方法"。她对绘画的处理体现了谢赫提出的 "中国画六法 "的某些方面,即 "气韵"、"神似"、,布局“,“构思”,同时还运用了西方绘画的技法,如水洗、泼彩、点染、肌理和细部处理。


同样,在《大教堂 1》、《大教堂 2》、《大教堂 3》以及《圣史蒂芬大教堂内部》和《圣约翰大教堂内部》系列中,中国水墨画的重要特征之一--强烈而随性的线条也得到了体现。杨在这一系列作品中运用了中国画的技法,同时运用西方宗教符号和色彩来探索灵性的概念。正如艺术家所指出的,"选择的颜色是蓝色、黑色、绿色和白色,这些颜色在康定斯基的论文《关于艺术中的精神》中被称为能引起精神共鸣的几种代表 。值得注意的是,上述《花园系列》也通过使用西方绘画技巧(即中国题材/主题和西方绘画技巧)表现出类似的观点或意图。


《走廊系列》也体现了中西绘画方法的融合。与 《花园系列》和 《大教堂系列》不同的是,艺术家采用了多视角方法,其灵感来自中国山水画、塞尚的多视角风景画和静物画、俄罗斯圣像画和反向透视画,以及大卫-霍克尼的多视角风景画。最终的作品呈现出一种非常复杂的构图,既有西方多视点画法和明亮的色彩,同时又强调了形式在塑造绘画的 "气韵"和"布局"方面的重要性。





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