27th November 2019 was afull day of experiencing art for students and staff of the Silk Road School. On that day, they visited exhibitions of 2 artists, Mr Qiu Shihong and MrQian Li, whose art styles were different from each other.
Artist Qiu Shihongwas born in Sichuan province, Lezhi county on March 1966. He graduated from Southwest University, Nanjing Art Institute and received a doctorate in Arts. He is the professor of the Art Institute and the supervisor for master students of Nanjing University of Aeronautics, Head of Nanjing University of Aeronautics Painting and Calligraphy Research Institute and many other titles. He has published 200 thesis, 3 textbooks, 12 books, attended 30 over academic conferences, held 30 over academic talks in China and had 5 personal exhibitions since 2009. His research field is Chinese cultureand Chinese poems, calligraphy,paintings and seals.
Mr Qiu’s institutionis situated in Kunshan, an area between Suzhou and Shanghai, considered the base of culture exchange between China and the world, as it is the gate to the outside world for Suzhou. Suzhou iswell-known for its culture and not only its economy as it has produced many talented, famous artists and the Wu style（吴门书派）, proving its a suitable environmentfor art. The gallery was officially open a week before the visitand was a joint effort by Suzhou Artist Association and Nanjing University of Aeronautics.
During the lecture, Mr Qiu explained the difference between Chinese and foreign art. The ShiCulture (士文化)isthe mainstream culture of Chinese art and it is comprised by the 4 pillars which are poems, paintings, calligraphies and seals.
Firstly, the Chinesepoems are the most concise and elite form of the Chinese culture. With mostof famous works datingback from Tang and Song dynasties, it emphasizeson the beauty of structure, sound and meaning.
The second pillar of the Shi Culture is Chinese calligraphy whereby the Chinese character is an art on its own. Out of the 3 ancient pictographic written forms of communications, Chinesewritten language is the only character-based writing formthat is left in the world and has been promoted to an art form.Chinese characters had braved through the May 4th movement, Cultural Revolution, Digital Revolution and was said to be the easiest yet most difficult character by the French President.Picasso also once said that he would to be a calligrapher should he have been born in China.
Thirdly, Chinese paintingemphasisedon the artistic element of people. Through the brushworks,the thoughts and emotions of the artist were revealed. Confuciusthoughts had the most influence on Chinese painting. In recent years, Chinese paintings had been receiving high comments signifying the improvement of Chineseart, while the paintings of renowned Chinese artists are priced at over 100 million yuan.
Lastly, Chinese sealsare always used on Chinesepaintings and calligraphy, especially after Ming and Qing dynasties. The seals are small,but theycertainly have a big impact.
Nonetheless, there are some similaritiesbetween Chinese and foreign art which is the emphasis on the spirit of people, and Chinese paintings are more focused on personal emotions.
In the question and answer section, Mr Qiu shared that his family was into Chinese art and had been practicing art since young. Moreover, he isfrom Sichuan, a place that produces many great artists, therefore his love for art was cultivated in such an environment. His skills improved after meeting a great artist, Xu Wuwen（徐无闻）. He also mentioned that he got his inspiration from great artists dating back to the dynasties, from his life experiences and nature.
Mr Qiu’s lecture sparkedinterest of students, such as Kyi Sin, who are unfamiliarwith Chinese calligraphyand would like to discover and learn more on Chinese characters.
After the lecture, the students visited the gallery exhibiting Mr Qiu’s works which comprises of the 4 pillars of the Shi Culture.
The work above was done by Yang Ruizhenwho was from Shaoxing City andwasknown to be the monster of art as his writings were wild. Mr Qiu had enlargedhis works and it was a section of a short story. As compared with a famous calligrapher Zhao Mengfuwho was an official, the contrast was obvious. Zhao Mengfu’s writing was more formal, neat and regularwhile Yang Ruizhen’s writings were irregular and wild.
There were 28 words in the work above, with its lengthat 8.2m long and a height of 2m high. The above work isby a famous artist Su Shi（苏轼）on the Linbi Stone（灵璧石）located in Anhui province. Mr Qiu created the piece by writing it on the floor.
Artist Qian Li is a member of Jiangsu Province ArtistAssociation, Jiangsu Young Artist Association, Vice-chairman of Kunshan municipal Artist Association and other titles. He has beeninterested indrawing, literature and history since young and has held 5 personal exhibitions in Nanjing andKunshan. He has received over 10 awards from national and provincial level organizations andhas published a novel of three hundred and fifty thousand words in newspapers and magazines.
Mr Qian’s works were drawings from storybooks of the pasts such as the war in the dynasty period and thestory on assassination of an emperor with the weapon hidden inside the fish stomach. There were also depictions of queer animals from The Classic of Mountains and Seaswhich had over 100 drawings in the full collection. For this series and the series on the top 10 famous historical characters of Kunshan, Mr Qian used pen as the medium. For his portraits on Chinese opera performers, Marvel characters, Chinese movies characters and historical characters of the dynasties, he used pencil as the medium. He also had his works done in Chinesecalligraphy ink.
Sujala Tanchangya was awestruck by the paintings and calligraphy worksat Mr Qiu’s gallery and she mentioned “I have never seen calligraphy works like his before and I got to learn about the historybehind each work.”Mr Qiansaid he enjoyed drawing since young and aspired to be a renowned artist. Meeting Mr Qian on the visit to his personal exhibition, which showcased many drawings of Marvel and traditional Chinesecharacters, allowed her to learn how to be asuccessful person. It was a memorable day for her meeting 2 great artists in China, and many thanks to Silk Road School for organizingthe visits. Sheappreciatedthe curriculum.
Gideon Wafula Makhanu was grateful to Mr Qiu for sharing his calligraphy skills.As a foreigner, Chinese calligraphy not only provided the aesthetic sense but also communicated withoutthe use of words. He enjoyed the drawings while trying to guess the meanings and stories behind the work. He described Mr Qian’s paintings as perfect,“especially the drawing on assassination of an emperor in ancientChina. As the adage goes“A picture is worth a thousand words”. The painting is worth a thousand words. We learnt some Chinese stories through the paintings.” Gideon expressed his sincere gratitude to the Silk Road School for organizing such a visit.
The visits to the 2 galleries gave the students an opportunity to be in touchwith the Chinese culture and art while learning about the history andstoriesbehind each work.
Written by: Lim Yin Ru
Photos by: Lim Yin Ru
Edited by: Catalina Chen Li