The last time we were at Shangri-La Plaza (we watched Sherlock Holmes), a Chinese painting exhibit was on the list of scheduled events at the ground floor lobby. There was a similar exhibit last year to which we went on January 25, the eve of the 2009 Chinese Lunar New Year, upon the insistence of Alex who was absolutely obsessed with Oriental art and mythology. I was expecting reproductions of old Chinese paintings and was quite surprised to find out that there were none. Instead, there were original paintings by the Chan Lim family and students of the Confucius Institute of the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU), the first to be established in the country in consonance with a program of the government of the People’s Republic of China, through the Office Chinese Language Council International (Hanban), to establish such institutes globally to promote Chinese language and culture. The Confucius Institute offers courses on Basic Chinese, Practical Spoken Chinese, Business Chinese and Chinese painting.
I asked and was given permission to take photos of the paintings at the exhibit and I am reproducing here my two favorites. The painting of the birds on tree branches on the right is by Dr. Felix Chan Lim (Ph.D. in Electronics and Communications Engineering; Ph.D. in Management), former lecturer at the ADMU’s Chinese Studies Program.
The painting on the left is by Maria Teresa Yam, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) who considers the discipline of Chinese painting a great way towards self-restraint, patience and tranquility.
What characterizes Chinese painting? In fact, just what is Chinese painting? There is traditional Chinese painting, modern Chinese painting and everything in between. Traditional Chinese painting may be classified according to technique, form or subject. Insofar as ancient paintings go, Xie He, a 5th century art historian and critic wrote that there were six points to consider when judging a painting:
1. “Spirit Resonance”, or vitality, and seems to translate to the nervous energy transmitted from the artist into the work. The overall energy of a work of art. Xie He said that without Spirit Resonance, there was no need to look further.
2. “Bone Method”, or the way of using the brush. This refers not only to texture and brush stroke, but to the close link between handwriting and personality. In his day, the art of calligraphy was inseparable from painting.
3. “Correspondence to the Object”, or the depicting of form, which would include shape and line.
4. “Suitability to Type”, or the application of color, including layers, value and tone.
5. “Division and Planning”, or placing and arrangement, corresponding to composition, space and depth.
6. “Transmission by Copying”, or the copying of models, not only from life but also the works of antiquity.