Chinese garden and cathedral paintings (or spiritual and form): conversation between Chinese and the West
I chose the two motifs of Chinese gardens and cathedrals as the themes of my paintings. In these paintings, I am interested in the themes for the underlying spiritual meanings. Regarding Chinese gardens, they embody design wisdom and Chinese philosophies, such as Taoism and Confucianism. On the other hand, the depiction of the architecture of St John Cathedral and St Stephen Cathedral (in Brisbane) serves as a tangible manifestation of religious belief, encapsulating the collective identity and expression of Christianity. Thus, the expression of spirituality is a critical question that I seek to investigate in this body of work. I started my exploration from the aspect of form and examined it in both cultures. I explored how the distinct colours and compositions convey a sense of spirituality. In Western art theory， Wassily Kandinsky insists that abstraction which aims to deviate from reflecting the physical appearance of scenery and the rhythm reflected through colour and form may readily and directly move audiences’ emotions. However, Chinese shanshui painting which refers to mountain and water painting, though referential, still arouses spirituality. For example, in Chinese shanshui paintings, the artist emphasized the importance of breath energy and the spiritual generated by the transformation of yin and yang polarities and polarities of physical forms. Whereas the Western understanding of form is dominated by modern formalism focusing on the autonomous arrangement of colours and form that function directly on aesthetics and emotion. I reconciled both ideas by combining these elements into my paintings. The square format was used as a distinctive feature in this body of work as it is a symbol of spirituality inspired by Kazimir Malevich’s square painting.
In my small square paintings, I used paperboard and acrylic paint as materials. The paperboard is absorbent and is easy to display spontaneous texture with diluted acrylic paint. In this series, I depicted Chinese classical gardens and drew in traditional neutral colours to convey a sense of elegance and gracefulness. I adopted the composition inspired by the Chinese shanshui traditional painting, the distance method proposed by the Song Dynasty artist, Guo Xi, and the use of the betweenness of the void and the filled. Collage is another strategy that I employ to deepen its richness as the paste of the rice paper and semi-transparent baker paper are helpful in revealing textures that the brushes cannot make.
In the round format fan paintings, I continued to apply Chinese drawing methods by using a typical corner composition inspired by the Chinese Song Dynasty paintings and focusing on close-up scenery. Although the scenery was depicted in a finite frame, viewers can experience the work beyond its physical limit: 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 methods used in this body of work. In this and the thereafter series, I enlarged the paintings’ scale and transferred from paperboard to canvas. I consider the portable and scalable quality of a canvas a suitable medium to use for this painting series.
In the third series, the corridor paintings, I adopted the multi-perspective method inspired by Chinese shanshui paintings, Paul Cezanne’s multi-view ideas on landscape and still life paintings, Russian icon paintings and reverse perspective, and David Hockney’s multi-view landscape paintings. Specifically, in one of my corridor paintings, the path leads the viewer's eyes in one direction, while the background defines the multiple layers of perspectives creating depth to the narrative. Regarding the colour, I adopted a high key colour match that helps to deviate the association of realistic landscape and create a sense of freshness and strangeness.
The last series is the cathedral paintings. I depicted both the interior structure of the Saint John and Stephen Cathedral and the views outside the cathedrals. The interior of the cathedral focuses on the neo-gothic towering columns, the arched windows, the stained-glass windows, and the light inside. Similar to the Corridor Painting, I did not depict one specific view but multiple views which convey the feeling of holiness. The colours chosen are blue, black, green, and white which referred to Kandinsky’s treatise: Concerning the Spiritual in Art. I adopt these colours to convey a sense of spirituality. In terms of the outside glimpse of cathedral paintings, I painted the series in loose and gestural brushstrokes while at the same time, depicting the work in a highly decorative style.
Qing Yang has recently completed the Doctor of Visual Art program at Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, Australia. She is currently teaching at the College of Design, Shandong University of Arts in China. Her research interest focuses on landscape painting composition combined with Chinese and Western drawing methods. She explores her ideas through the theme of Chinese classical gardens and cathedrals. Yang has been exhibiting her works in provincial and national exhibitions in China since 2009. In 2021, one of her paintings Garden-the Ideal Way of Life was selected for the exhibition, the Schema and Spirit- the 2nd Chinese Oil Painting Biennale held by the Chinese Artist Association. Recently Yang published an article titled Contemporary Chinese landscape paintings: genealogies of form in the Journal of Visual Art Practice.
杨晴，于格里菲斯大学昆士兰艺术学院完成视觉艺术博士课程，并获得博士学位。她现在任教于山东艺术学院设计学院。研究中西绘画方法结合的风景画构图。她以中国古典园林和大教堂作为研究对象，创作了一系列以花园为主题的画作。她的多幅作品自2009年以后，曾在中国省级和国家级展览中展出。 2021年，作品《园林—壶中天地》入选中国美术家协会举办的“图式与精神——第二届中国油画双年展”。 2023年，她在《视觉艺术实践期刊》上发表了题为《当代中国山水画：形式的谱系》的文章。