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Skillful yet Unsophisticated: Bird-and-flower Paintings by Yang Shanshen in Collection of Guangzhou Museum of Art

Release time:20-12-11


       Born in Taishan, Guangdong Province, Yang Shanshen (1913--2004)lived in Hong Kong and Canada. As one of the outstanding contemporary Chinesepainters in China and one of the major representatives of Lingnan School of Painting,he was regarded as one of the Four Masters of Contemporary Lingnan School of Paintingwith Guan Shanyue, Li Xiongcai and Zhao Shao’ang. In 1933, he was enrolled bythe Lijing School of Fine Arts founded by Bao Shaoyou and studied painting whenhe met Gao Jianfu, founder of Lingnan School of Painting. In 1935, he was admittedby the Insho Domoto School of Fine Arts in Kyoto, Japan where he learned fromthe Japanese painters Insho Domoto and received regular training in painting.In 1938, he returned to Hong Kong and engaged in the creation and teaching ofChinese painting. In 1970, he established the Spring Breeze PaintingAssociation in Hong Kong to teach painting. Over the years, he maintained friendshipwith Gao Jianfu, who was his teacher and friend at the same time. He was alsodeeply influenced by Gao Jianfu in artistic thoughts and practice.

       As aninheritor to the Lingnan School of Painting, Yang created a path of his own. Heabsorbed essence in paintings of both the past and the present, China and theworld. He had a comprehensive understanding and made a new way. His paintingshave a wide range of subjects, including animals and beasts, birds and flowers,landscapes and figures with high attainments. In particular, his bird-and-flowerpainting is something phenomenal. He was good at combining both meticulous andfreehand styles. His brushworks were delicate yet simple, and his modeling wasvivid. With his sophisticated skills, he had developed a unique style ofpainting which is simple but elegant. He had pushed the art of Lingnan School ofPainting to a new level and opened up a broader road for the development of theSchool.

       In the aspect of artistic execution, Yang was one ofthe painters in the Lingnan School of Painting who paid attention to thecombination of skill and naiveness. In particular, his bird-and-flowerpaintings appeared unsophisticated but profound in meaning. His brushworks werecalm and heavy with ink variety by the application of dry brush and abundantink. The skills presented in his works seem graceful and pleasant, while his unsophisticationis observed in a simple and vigorous way. The two elements are in conflict yetbecome harmonious in his paintings. The artist constantly pursued the highestrealm in art of being skillful and unsophisticated at the same time.

       In order to further spread and promotethe research on Lingnan School of Painting, as well as let the visitors have ain-depth and comprehensive understanding of Yang's bird-and-flower painting, wepresent this exhibition in focus of his skill and unsophistication, and try tointerpret his painting style from different angles in hope of bringingdifferent visual experience to the visitors.


Guangzhou Museum of Art

October, 2020