Nature's inspiration flows to expression for painter Yu Jigao, Zhang Zhao reports.
It is widely accepted that traditional Chinese painting can be divided into two categories: gongbi, or fine brushwork with great attention to detail, and xieyi, a freehand style of brushwork that expresses meaning and spirit.
But Painter Yu Jigao does not agree with that general interpretation.
"Admittedly xieyi focuses on spirit and renders resemblance of the bearing and expression of the objects, but it is definitely not the only genre that can achieve such results," he said.
"In traditional Chinese culture, humans and the universe are not related as subject and object, but instead they join and merge into each other to achieve the harmony and perfection of lives. Expressions of such a spirit of lives remain at the highest level of Chinese culture."
Yu believes that both gongbi and xieyi require a whole process for the artist to make up his mind.
He has always been attracted by natural beauty since his childhood in his hometown in Jiangsu province. When he was fishing, chasing rabbits or trying to catch birds, his heart "felt the pulse of nature and would be stirred by a spirit of lives".
"That feeling, in time turns into the images of chirping birds and elegant flowers in my paintings," he said. "The lotus, the peony, the pear blossoms and spring swallows under my brush are all songs of thriving nature."
Form and spirit make up the soul of traditional Chinese painting, said Yu. "Using form to express spirit means to lay your hands on your true feeling for the world."
"I do not draw flowers and birds just as they are - in my mind they are objects to create a poetic ideal state that originates from a sincere call from the essence of life," he said.
"Under my brush, the blossoms, buds, leaves, stems and branches are no longer purely in their natural forms - they are all elevated to images in an artistic realm that no logical language can explain."
Yu has devoted all the years of his career to the pursuit of an "ideal aesthetic spirit" and has kept his mind open to nature and lives.
Once he trudged thousands of kilometers to Emei Mountain in Sichuan just to search for a special breed of cuckoo. And to observe peonies coming into bloom at sunrise, he rushed by bike dozens of kilometers before daybreak to Heze city in Shandong province, which is famous for peonies, and stayed there until sunset.
"What I try to do all my life is to look for the true beauty in nature that is often so transient, and catch the delicate feeling of lives, which I will process and elevate to the level of art," Yu said. "I keep exploring and experimenting with forms of expression, and never have I been satisfied."
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(China Daily 06/08/2013 page6)