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Beyond the dragon mould

The ongoing show of paintings from China offers an unconventional view of the nation and its culture


FOR A change, it's not "Made in China" products that are in news. What are in news, on the other hand, are stuff of an altogether different kind that have come to our city from the most populous country in the world. Organised by the National Gallery of Modern Art, under the cultural exchange programme between India and China, Contemporary Oil Paintings From China brings us 50 paintings by 40 artists. It includes portraits, landscapes, still life, and some breathtaking nudes. The travelling exhibition is on its last lap in Bangalore, having completed its run in Mumbai, Kolkata, and New Delhi.

The opening piece by Wan Jiyuan (The Man Playing) is rooted in our country's capital. Viewed from a distance, the painting looks like a photograph for its realistic portrayal of performers in a Karol Bagh music band. The focus continues to be on people in several other works like Sun Xiangyang' Yanko Dance, showing colourful street dancers performing to a crowd. In contrast to this action sequence, Shi Shaochen's Mother And Son is a picture of tenderness. Sun Weimin also creates a soft feel in his twin works titled Green Shade and Sunshine In Autumn. Even better results emerge with the portrayal of a seated woman with an open book by Wu Jun (Reading) and a standing duo by Ma Xiaoteng (A Couple).


Qui Baiping's Fruit is another outstanding effort for its delightful composition and effective portrayal of a young girl. Undulating hills become central to many landscape studies as in Pei Lin'an's Sunshine, Luo Fahui's Sheep Under The Tree, Lao Yichao's Village, Sun Gang's Earth and, Zhang Xueqian's The Yellow River. The same hills recede into the background in others, but still make their benign presence felt in Tan Difu's Spring, Wang Xin's Green Valley, and Bai Shi's Red Earth.

As for still life, Zhang Shijin undoubtedly shines with his work Hawthorn, featuring a potted plant in the vicinity of a chair covered with a silky cloth. Jing Zhuqing also paints a potted plant (Orchis) to some telling effect, while He Wei reclines a stringed instrument and includes its reflection to complete his still life.


The exhibition includes some stunning female nude studies. If Li Qiang uses the soft light to capture the mood of a sleepy woman, Wang Yuqi moves closer to his long-haired protagonist for a mid-shot (Portrait of a Lady). Sun Hao, in his work Two Ladies in Chamber, grabs attention not only by featuring his models in differing postures, but also for the absorbing perspective he generates even within the rather constricted space. His other work, Nude, is equally charming for the use of colour and mood. Li Mu's Model In Studio is another riveting work of a woman seen with her reflection in the mirror she holds. The most definitive work in this category is Wang Yuqi's Nude, where a young woman stands facing the wall. Her posture, combined with superb colour, mood, and composition makes this work truly exceptional. If one were to visit this exhibition expecting a set of rather conventional images of Chinese life and culture, s/he could be a bit taken aback. The Western influence is obvious and striking in almost all the works. But that does not hinder the artists from making some truly evocative visual statements. (Contemporary Oil Paintings From China concludes on April 14 at the Karnataka Chitrakala Parishat.)

ATHREYA

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