CHINA'S COUNTRYSIDE IN FORMAL ABSTRACTION

Wu Guanzhong's Landscape Paintings of the Late 1980s

Chen Xiao

ABSTRACT


Wu Guanzhong (1919-2010), one of the most important modern Chinese artists, successfully transformed Chinese landscape paintings by borrowing western formal abstract aesthetics into traditional Chinese ink art. Enlightened by the western abstract art during his study in Europe in 1940s, followed by the tortuous suffering from the national turmoil and political upheavals in China, Wu managed to insert his artistic beliefs into Chinese landscape paintings that content must be determined by form and that abstract beauty is the heart of the beauty of figurative art. Landscapes of the late 1980s are perceived as the initiation of Wu Guanzhong's absolute departure for formal abstraction after released from the Cultural Revolution in 1970s. These masterpieces best illustrate his prominent application of western art into Chinese ink. Abstract linear and plane forms, accomplished by spattered colored dots help transform Wu's landscapes into amazing natural scenes of simplicity, transparency, dynamic rhythms, yet simultaneously presenting his love for homeland and the Chinese identity rooted within in his heart. This paper, by conducting formal analysis of Wu Guanzhong's ink landscape paintings of the late 1980s, aims to explore his artistic innovation, "formal abstraction," out of Chinese tradition and its inspirations for next generations of Chinese artists.

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