In collaboration with Australian Watercolour Institute and Australian Chinese Heritage Paper Art Club, China Cultural Centre in Sydney is holding an art exhibition, Poetic Nature, presenting 41 works by 12 representative Australian and Chinese artists. Through a variety of artistic expressions including oil painting, gouache painting, acrylic and sculpture, these artists express their Love of life and passion for art from different perspectives, by creating stunning nature artworks that each captures the awe-inspiring natural beauty of our planet.
China Cultural Centre in Sydney is committed to strengthening cultural exchanges between China and Australia. Some of the Australian artists participating in this exhibition have visited China many times, and have trained many Chinese students. With deep understanding of Chinese culture, they have close ties and artistic communications with the Chinese. On the other hand, traditionally trained in the oriental arts and lived in the suburbs of Sydney, the Chinese artists were able to cultivate the old-style mediums to render a distinct aesthetic that portrays their rich cultural identity. They continue to create amazing artworks through their unique integration of Chinese and Australian cultures, traditions and experiences.
It is fair to say that this exhibition is not only an in-depth artistic dialogue, but also a testament to the mutual integration and influence between Chinese and Australian arts. We hope that this exhibition will become a cultural bridge to promote cultural exchanges between China and Australia and enhance mutual understanding between the two peoples.
Message from the Director
David Van Nunen
Ginger Jingzhe Li
To the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself. –-William Blake
A Vision of
Linda Van Nunen
Art critic, author and journalist
It was said of Wang Wei, the Tang Dynasty poet and painter of nature, that his poems hold a painting within them and within his paintings there is poetry. Painting has historically been equated with poetry since the Greek lyric poet, Simonides of Ceos first penned, in the 5th century BC, the dictum‘ Poetry is a speaking picture, painting a silent poetry.’
This symbiotic association of painting and poetry has been integral to Chinese aesthetics. While landscape painting is a major genre in both Eastern and Western art, in no other cultural tradition has nature held such primacy as a source of inspiration for the arts than in China.
Traditional Chinese landscape painting, shanshui (literally meaning mountain-water), as an extension of calligraphy, did not present a realistic rendering of a specific scene but rather a visual record of the artist’s sensorial, emotional and imaginative response to nature.
This exhibition explores how the tradition of Chinese painting has informed Western contemporary art and, conversely, how Western art has transformed the tradition of Chinese painting in relation to depictions of nature…
Fangmin Wu, Simon Hua and Simon Cai, three of the Chinese artists represented in this exhibition, are contemporary exponents of the abstract expressionist style akin to action painting that gained impetus in China through the increased influence of Western art in the 1980s, which engendered the ‘85 New Wave Art Movement as a rebellion against the institutionalised socialist realism of previous decades.
Another Western stylistic tendency of the 1980s in contemporary Chinese art was surrealism, which characterises the paintings of Zhu Kaijiang.
Lan Wang similarly blends cross-cultural traditions in her subjective response to nature to create a new idiom, employing Chinese symbology in a fanciful figurative style evocative of Marc Chagall and, in an Australian context, Charles Blackman.
Ginger Li is a multidisciplinary artist, adept at not only painting but also paper cutting, etching, sculpture and ceramics. The botanical subjects of her paintings are within the second of the three categories of traditional Chinese painting — landscapes, birds-and-flowers and figures – which are executed in a Western figurative style of still life with astute attention to colour and tonal values.
Traditional Chinese art has had a direct influence on the work of David van Nunen in his exploration of calligraphy and ink wash paintings in relation to Western brushwork and mark-making.
He has consistently pursued a unique personal style and individual vision, combining abstract and figurative elements in his work in a confrontation of reality with lyrical abstraction.
One of Australia’s foremost contemporary artists in the figurative tradition, Wendy Sharpe’s creative vision is informed by imaginative experience, which approaches magical realism. Working in a spirited, expressionistic style characterised by voluptuous female forms, emotionally-charged brushwork, vivid colour and the sensuous application of paint, Sharpe presents a pictorial mise en scène for which viewers invent their own narratives.
A studied optical distortion and contortion to create warped, kaleidoscopic perspectives rendered in a direct, primitive, caricaturistic style singularise the figurative work of Bernard Ollis, such as in his Zhouzhuang Stone Bridge Panorama.
Hanna Kay, a realist working in the medium of oil on rice paper, deftly renders the fugitive effects of moments in nature, the fine, fastidious lines of her bird’s nests and blades of grass being in the manner of Chinese gongbi painting.
Peter Sharp has said of his approach to landscape painting, “I’m not interested in a literal translation but rather a poetic moment that speaks of things in nature.”
The timber sculptures of John Dublewicz are organically hewn from tree limbs and burls to reveal the creature within which their forms suggest they contain. Skilfully carved and intricately detailed, they are full of character, vitality and humour, which accords with the anthropomorphism of animals, birds, reptiles and marine creatures in Chinese culture.