Paris, France — Professor Yuhua Shouzhi Wang is a world-renowned painter. Throughout Asia, she is the only artist to whom the New York Academy of Art conferred the title of international preeminent artist of first class standing. Her art exhibition Seeing Two Worlds in One Flower was held at Palais du Louvre in Paris between October 10 and 12. The exhibition was located at the Hall des Maréchaux of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs.
The art world has classified the quality of ink painting into four different levels: Class of Proficiency, Class of Wonderment, Class of Divinity, and Class of Ease. Paintings of the Class of Proficiency has the ability to present a resemblance of objective reality, achieving likeness in form. This is the first stage of artistic creation. The art world calls it the stage of sketching. This is a stage that an artist cannot skip, yet they also cannot remain at this status quo, because this is an elementary stage.
The next level is the Class of Wonderment. Artworks of this Class demonstrates highly skilled techniques. The artist is able to paint anything at will without revealing any trace of effort. However, one also cannot remain stagnant at this stage. The next level after the Class of Wonderment is the Class of Divinity where the art carries likeness of ‘form’ and likeness of ‘spirit.’ In ink painting, the highest state of accomplishment is the Class of Ease where the artist attains natural ease by using simple brushstrokes to fully capture the form. With the most succinct brushwork and the most superb technique, the artist depicts objective reality and attains a state of miraculousness where both form and spirit are fully captured. This is the kind of art that viewers never get tired of appreciating; it leaves a wonderful aftertaste. Simply put, the art of Professor Yuhua Shouzhi Wang has attained the highest level of artistry in ink painting which is the Class of Ease.
One of Professor Yuhua Shouzhi Wang’s small paintings Pomegranates in a Basket realized a top auction price of US$1.27 million at the Gianguan Auction House in New York on March 13 of this year. It clearly shows that the art of Professor Yuhua Shouzhi Wang is recognized by art collectors and people of foresight alike.
This exhibition showcases 27 of Professor Wang’s extraordinary artworks each of which has reached the height of the Class of Ease. The painting Birds Resting on Rocks and Bamboo is created with abstract brushwork that puts aside the intention to achieve likeness. The color is light and elegant. The lively flock perching on top of the rocks is full of spirit and vivacity. There is not a trace of mundane sentiment. The application of ink is natural and carefree, leaving much room for imagination.
In Knowing the Flavor from Tasting It, the artist uses broad freehand brushstrokes to depict a basketful of loquat and watermelon. On the top of the basket handle stands a blue jay. While the ripened melon makes people salivate, the blue jay is contentedly pecking at the ripened loquat. It is so enviable. The little bird is portrayed in free style brushwork and at the same time with meticulous details. The beauty of the feather can be vividly seen. This painting is so powerfully captivating that it is unforgettable. It brings such joy to both body and mind. Looking at this painting, it is not hard to comprehend the virtue and artistry of the artist behind such creativity. No wonder Prof. Yuhua Shouzhi Wang is such an extraordinary international virtuoso of our time.
Adorable is of a style of its own. With broad freestyle brushstroke, the artist rendered the two little birds being totally at ease, not having a care in the world. The more one looks at it, the more adorable they are. The marvel lies in the unpredictable strokes and penetrating charm offered by the forceful brushwork. With profound calligraphic skills, the artist rendered ink in different shades that are fused and distinct at the same time, creating a natural composition. There is not a trace of affectedness from deliberate embellishment. With just a few brushstrokes, the pine tree, pine leaves, pine cones and stones are depicted. This painting, filled with reminiscence of home, openly displays the rejuvenation of a seasoned virtuoso returning to a childlike state of mind. The few budding red flowers are mutually enhancing. The artistic conception is elegant and profound.
Auspicious Charm is created with broad freestyle brushwork. The artist’s use of ink splashes renders the lotus full of life. The bright red lotus and the faintly yellow lotus pods convey a sense of auspiciousness, peace and tranquility. The way the artist uses brush, water, ink and color is mesmerizing. There is a natural appeal that radiates liveliness at the same time. The different shades of ink and color create a kind of richness and sumptuousness that nurture the heart. This painting delivers the beauty of the vivacity of spirit.
In True to Life, the artist is not just painting but expressing an otherworldly aura through ink and brush. The form and the spirit vivaciously leap off the painting. Needless to say, this is how comfort emanating from a charming spirit is displayed on paper. In Tending a Buffalo, the layout of the buffalo, the shepherd, and the background; as well as the use of ink and brush in this painting absolutely display the oneness of form and spirit. The vigor of the brushstrokes and the charm of the ink are mutually enhancing like heavenly music that is natural and free of any restraint. Such a composition is unheard of, and it essentially becomes a rare world treasure of art that surpasses the Class of Divinity to stand at the Class of Ease.
Pomegranates in a Basket Portrayed in a Scholarly Spirit is a painting that captures both the form and spirit of the subject matter without any trace of ordinariness. Charming energy radiates from the ink and the color. The brushstrokes carry a vigor reminiscent of ancient stone and bronze inscriptions. In addition, this work of art exudes a scholarly essence, the highest state of artistry that most artists yearn to attain.
Arriving at Natural Ease from Painting Mindlessly displays a grand scale of distinguished artistry. The artist has created the work with a minimal use of ink; as if ink were as precious as gold. With simple brushstrokes, the images are effectively represented. This painting has successfully achieved oneness of form and spirit; and its artistry has reached the Class of Ease.
Ancient Castle is a landscape painting rendered by messy yet composed brushstrokes. The black and white colors are mutually enhancing, creating a cohesion between the depicted and the implied. The spirit and sentiment are ever-changing. With a childlike state of mind and without using a pinkish white color, the artist rendered the white exterior and red roofs of the ancient castles just by using simple application of ink and very few brushstrokes. The ancient castles, captured in just a few strokes without embellishment, sit atop the mountain. The appearances of such historic architectural forms from ancient time and unknown years leave plenty of room for imagination. All in all, each of the paintings in this exhibition has reached the height of the Class of Ease.
More than 200 distinguished members of society, artists, collectors, entrepreneurs, and art lovers attended the exhibition opening; including representatives from French museums, professors from French art institutes, French nobilities, renowned artists, celebrities, representatives from auction houses, art critics and journalists from major news media. They all marveled at the artworks and expressed their praises. They considered this an unprecedented experience for French people.
From my understanding, this is also the second time that an exhibition of an Asian artist has ever been held at the Louvre Museum. Previously, Chinese painter Yan Peiming’s small scale exhibition Funeral of Mona Lisa was held at the Denon Wing. According to the archive of the Louvre, when Chinese artist Zeng Fanzhi exhibited at the Louvre, only one of his paintings “From 1830 till Now No.4” was exhibited next to Eugène Delacroix’s “Liberty Leading the People” in the Denon Wing as an exchange of dialogue, but it was not the artist’s solo exhibition.
Renowned art critic Aude de Kerros acclaimed: “I have curated so many painting exhibitions, yet I have never seen an exhibition like this where all the guests are so touched and amazed by the art, and all of them expressed praises. I truly cannot describe their surprise and joy. The art experts don’t even want to leave after seeing such exquisite artworks. You can see that so many people are staying this late and they are not leaving. Normally, people would have been long gone by now.”
The Artistic Director of Musée Cernuschi Eric Lefebvre said: “The creativity in these artworks comes from the innate creative abilities of the artist. The artwork presents such sense of ease and pleasantness to the viewers. This exhibition is of very high standard.” Francesca Baldi of Centre Pompidou said: “The artist’s skillset and the multiplicity of her techniques are astonishing.” President of Académie International de Peinture à l’Encre Mr. Robert Faure commented: “The skill of the artist is profound. She is presenting many different painting styles all at once. This is an incredible show!” Several representatives from the Pompidou Center stayed from 7 PM until after 10 PM and they still haven’t left. They were stunned by how shockingly impressive and gorgeous the paintings of Professor Wang’s were, and how inconceivable that the artistic conception of Eastern ink painting can surpass a few hundred years Western tradition. Professor Wang is the only artist who achieved it.
During this trip to Europe, I have seen the original artworks of Gauguin, Cezanne, Monet, Van Gogh, and Renoir. I made a comparative analysis of the form, the spirit, and the brushwork between the paintings of Professor Yuhua Shouzhi Wang and their works. After appreciating and evaluating all the works, I only have one conclusion: I am deeply convinced that Professor Yuhua Shouzhi Wang being honored as a preeminent international artist of first class standing is absolutely befitting. The fact that viewers are staying on for such a long time to appreciate the art is the most unequivocal testament!
(By Xingyi Gu, Professor and Master’s students supervisor of Guangzhou University School of Humanities, a supervisor to master students, a member of the Guangdong Writers Association, and Director of the Guangdong Province Collectors Association)