Wang Yihua: A Timeless Tradition

Tenya Mastoras
Jun 3, 2016 2:33PM
River in the Village, 2014
Odon Wagner Contemporary

By Zhu Yan, independent art critic, January 2015
Adapted from the original Chinese

The recent oeuvre of Wang Yihua consists of two major subjects: the winding waterways of Jiangnan (the land south of the Yangtze River) and the ancient houses of Huizhou (Hui-style architecture). Both these subjects are executed in Wang’s signature style of high realism. Huizhou, however, is a new subject in which Wang has recently gained a strong interest. Huizhou, a region near the scenic Huangshan Mountains in Southeastern China, is known for its sublime landscape, unique local architecture and rich cultural heritage. Huizhou was the place of a major school of architecture as early as the Song Dynasty. The centuries-old structures of Huizhou have witnessed the rise and fall of what was once the most important economic, social and political centre of China.

Fenqiangdaiwa (粉墙黛瓦), or white-walled and black-tiled house, is a common term used by the Chinese to describe the building style of Southeastern China, primarily in the regions of Jiangnan and Huizhou. However, black and white are not purely visual terms in Chinese context, they are also spiritual. Black and white are two extremes of the colour spectrum, but more importantly, for many centuries they have symbolized the Chinese literati’s quest for excellence and it’s innate desire to develop and preserve culture. Wang’s depiction of the Fenqiangdaiwa touches on these spiritual Chinese references.

Wang’s exquisite and refined portrayal of waterway towns and landscapes reflect the artist’s belief in the harmonious coexistence of all beings on Earth, a state of being that is considered to be ideal and fundamental in classical Chinese philosophy. How this belief became the basis of Wang’s creative thought can be attributed to his modesty, diverse education, and strong sense of cultural identity. He nurtures an aesthetic preference for the powerfully quiet. His compositions show no evidence of conflict or tension. Instead, the bright sky, winding canals, magnificent mountains, spirited trees and interconnected buildings form a perfectly balanced world, a world in which the individual lives poetically with nature.

An intriguing interplay between visions of the East and the classical style of Western art academies is also reflected in Wang’s painting. Like the frequently depicted stone bridges that span across the waterways providing vital connections for villages, the poetic paintings of Wang Yihua invite the viewer to uncover the inherent and deeply rooted artistic connections between these two cultures.

Wang Yihua dedicates his painting to the portrayal of the ideal landscape. He ceaselessly works in the pursuit of a most refined technical execution and a deeper understanding of atmospheric effect in painting. The graceful handling of light and shadow reflects Wang’s reference and firm understanding of the European tradition of landscape painting, particularly that of the Impressionists. The results are grand compositions comprised of delicate details, versatile brushwork and subtle colour treatment that reconstruct scenes at their moment of occurrence urging the viewer to enter such rich and unique visualizations.

-Zhu Yan 
Independent art critic, January 2015
Adapted from the original Chinese

Tenya Mastoras