Modern Ink and Color Painting of Liu Zilong
By Zeng Luhong
Liu Zilong is known by the art circles by his color batik painting. “Liu Zilong Batik Painting Exhibition” held in the Central Hall of National Art Museum of China in the summer of 1984 makes a sensation in Beijing and makes color batik painting sweep over China. This art exhibition brings the color batik painting and art of Liu Zilong to the public.
In his color batik painting, Liu Zilong performs brave innovation against traditional Chinese batik dyeing. He integrates the fundamental principle of traditional Chinese folk batik dyeing with modern dyeing technique and expands the blue and white tunes of traditional batik dyeing into multiple tunes. Traditional batik dyeing is limited to cotton fabric, while Liu Zilong’s color batik painting is applicable to cotton, wool, linen, silk, chemical fiber, leather and other fabric. His color batik painting represents an artistic technique of modern painting and not only serves as practical artwork but also provides high appreciation value. “The breakthrough of process engineering brings artistic innovation,” says Chang Shana, the then dean of Central Academy of Art and Design.
The great significance of Liu Zilong’s color batik painting lies in that he carves out an innovation road for folk art from traditional Chinese art.
The achievements and reputation of Liu Zilong in batik painting conceals his achievements in other art fields. As a versatile artist, he has become quite accomplished in design, pattern, oil painting and ink and color painting fields.
Liu Zilong has loved painting ever since he was a child and established Zilong Painting Club when he was in his teens. When he was young, Liu Zilong traveled around for learning and making friends and became well-educated through self-study. He has served as the director of Tangshan Color Batik Institute and general engineer of Hebei Color Batik Center. In 1981, when he was 39, Liu Zilong stepped into the Central Academy of Art and Design, became the most favorite student of masters Zhang Ding and Yuan Yunfu, and realized his long-cherished dream – engaging in pure artistic creation. Liu Zilong has reached a new artistic level after years of study in the Central Academy of Art and Design.
Liu Zilong only takes the creation of ink and color painting as the exploration for personal artistic style and rarely shows his artworks to the public. In practice, he is one of the earliest artists engaged in modern ink and color painting and has developed personal style of modern ink and color painting in 1980s. He had fascinated in Western modernism, in particular, expressionism and abstract expressionism. He draws or abstracts elements from traditional ink and wash for expressing modern characteristics. He insists on cultural attribute contained in Chinese ink and wash on the one hand but never gives up the representative tools and material attributes. When the ’85 New Wave Art Movement was popular in China, he frequently went abroad though he created modern ink and color painting from time to time. He has been invited to give lectures and hold painting exhibitions outside of China more than once. As a result of not throwing himself into the wave crest of through trends of art, Liu Zilong is not deemed as the earliest practitioner of modern ink and color painting in China, which is really a great pity.
In the summer of 1984, I appreciated his art from Liu Zilong Color Batik Hanging Exhibition and met him in the mid 1990s. I felt he was my old friend when I met him for the first time in person. We became good friends soon despite of great difference in age. Therefore I have opportunities to communicate with him, watch him painting, and recognize his art to certain extent.
Liu Zilong is a person with real feelings. He is passionate, unconstrained, generous, sincere and merciful, and values emotion a lot. He is always willing to help friends, in career or life.
Artistically, Liu Zilong is a creative painter, who is brave in exploration and practice and applies scientific experiment of color batik painting to the creation of ink and color painting.
Generally, Liu Zilong would think over for long time before creating ink and color painting. He prefers to lay the paper on floor or desk, walks around or fixes his eyes on the blank paper from time to time as if he would initiate a dialogue or talk with the paper. It goes smoothly and continuously when he takes the brush, for a while, he brushes quickly, and for another while, he stretches carefully. Sometimes, he moves the paper to enable the flowing and mutual penetration of water, ink and colors and seek unpredictable casual effect. The raw Xuan paper of Chinese painting is penetrative and infiltrated to water and ink so that a kind of sense of rhythm and unique language form is created by flowing when water, ink and color is mixed.
If he enjoys himself to the full during painting, Liu Zilong can’t help dancing occasionally as if forgetting everything. I have no idea what to draw in the beginning; when the brush touches the paper, the image I wanted occurs to my mind immediately, and I draw it continuously to maintain the fresh sense, he says. The method of painting adopted by Liu Zilong is similar to the splash-ink method created by Mr. Zhang Daqian and also resembles American action painting to a certain extent.
Passion runs through the creation course of Liu Zilong’s ink and color painting. Some works are created impromptu. His works have handsome style, bold ink and color application, elaborate composition and other precious characteristics. Some works are full of charm of stroke and emotional coloring in terms of color and line expression. Featuring free style, his ink and color paintings are bright, or elegant, or splendid or profound, focus on the expression of his ideas and intuitions, and find certain cultural images and symbols hitting the reality at the time of experiencing the variation of life and new cultural information. He develops a distinctive character by virtue of rendering and control of ink and color, artistic processing of mottled and exposed/concealed shapes and lines, and others, and takes a unique way for the processing of water, ink, depth of color, spatial and icy veins.
Experiencing a process from freehand brushwork to abstract, most of Liu Zilong’s ink and color paintings fall into the scope of abstract painting and can be included into expressionism or decorative style. Carefully appreciating his ink and color paintings, you can find his reflection on life, worries about life & death and ups & downs, expression of conflict between ideal and reality, and feeling of love and hate. Some of his works are only for exploring aesthetic feeling of ink and color materials, seeking the rhythm of ink, color, and lines among others, and pursuing the form and composition of picture. The artistic charm of his ink and color paintings is from his understanding of life, from his highlighting of personality, and also from the meaning of life expressed by the inherent aesthetic feeling and form of artistic pattern.
With regard to materials, Liu Zilong uses raw and sized Xuan paper of Chinese painting and also Korea dak paper. He uses brush and broad brush, pigment for Chinese painting and also soaked bean-noodle pigment, propylene and others.
It is commented by Mr. Shui Tianzhong that “from the perspective of form, Liu Zilong’s works embodies strong flavor of oriental painting such as solid modeling and bold decomposition of form, unification and strong contrast of colors, secret or confused mental state, and others… Liu Zilong is an artist growing up from the local cultural soil of China as judged from his constant Chinese style peaceful insight of nature and life instead of whether he inherits the form and rules of traditional painting”; he keeps unique mettle even during the creation of loneliness and sadness. He never loses the mood of control and harmony in oriental style sensation. Liu Zilong is a modern Chinese artist with creative spirit.
“It requires remarkable gifts and extraordinary efforts to introduce advantages of Western painting into Chinese painting and present the verve of Chinese painting without any trace of Western painting; any negligence may lead to wrong direction,” Mr. Zhang Daqian said.
Though integrating certain forms and styles of modern Western arts, the ink and color painting of Liu Zilong keeps strong flavor of oriental painting and shows the verve of Chinese painting. Liu Zilong is exactly a talented, creative and diligent.