Wu Guanzhong


Wu Guanzhong
b. 1919, Yixing, Jiangsu
Oil and traditional Chinese painter
An artist of a much earlier generation than most discussed in this book, Wu broke the Cultural Revolution-imposed taboo on abstract painting with his May 1979 article ‘The Formal Beauty of Painting’ (Huihuade xingshi mei), which argued that painting should exist independently of political content and be appreciated on the basis of its formal character. The ensuing debate on form and abstraction was crucial in developing a more tolerant atmosphere in the transitional period immediately following the end of the Cultural Revolution. Wu was active in the Beijing Oil Painting Research Association (Beijing youhua yanjiuhui), a popular organization with diverse membership, which began to hold a series of daring exhibitions starting from October 1979. Despite championing abstraction, Wu always retained a figurative element in his painting, stating that the line connecting artist and reality is like a kite’s string that must never be broken.
Wu’s foray in the early 1980s was backed by a solid and respectable career. He studied at the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou between 1937 and 1942, and in France from 1946 to 1950.
After returning to China in 1950 he taught at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Qinghua University, Beijing Academy of Arts, and at the Central Institute of Arts and Crafts. During the Cultural Revolution, like most artists of his background, he was sent to the countryside and forbidden to paint. Though his distinctive style in oil painting was already mature, it was in the 1980s that he found a propitious atmosphere for his bold experiments in large semi-abstract Zhongguohua (traditional Chinese) paintings. His Zhongguohua is untraditional for its absence of focus on brushwork and brushstrokes, substituted instead by an innovative use of long, rhythmic lines and energizing dots.
Farrer, Anne (1992). Wu Guanzhong: A Twentieth Century Chinese Painter. London: British Museum Press.
Lim, Lucy (ed.) (1989). Wu Guanzhong. A Contemporary Chinese Artist. San Francisco: Chinese Culture Foundation.
Wu, Guanzhong (1979). ‘Huihuade xingshi mei’ [The Formal Beauty of Painting]. Meishu (May).
EDUARDO WELSH

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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