Artists in Transition: Paintings by Pan Gongkai, Tong Zhenguo, and Zhao Zhunwang

February 19 – April 9, 1994

The Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco is pleased to present three contemporary Chinese artists whose works reflect some of the current developments in Chinese ink-and brush painting. Pan Gongkai, Tong Zhenguo, and Zhao Zhunwang are well established artists in China who have held exhibitions in different countries including the United States.
In the span of the twentieth century, China has experienced major revolutions and upheavals. Political and economic reforms have brought changes to the Chinese society. In the field of the arts, the softening of the cultural atmosphere during the late 1970’s and 80’s gave artists greater opportunity to assert their individuality and new expressive styles. Eager to experiment with new ideas and techniques, the artists have been creating works with a fresh outlook. With this renewed urge for revision and transformation since the first decades of the 1900’s, traditional Chinese ink-and-brush painting has been reinvigorated with new stylistic elements and concepts.
The three artists in this exhibition reflect some of the new characteristics in Chinese painting. They live in a transitional period in Chinese art where artists constantly seek new modes of expression and representation. The works in this exhibit represent the three main categories of subject matter in Chinese painting: flower, figure, and landscape. The paintings are quite different from the traditional type, yet their Chinese essence is at once easily recognizable.
This exhibition is funded by the California Arts Council, a state agency; Grants for the Arts of the San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund; and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. The Chinese Culture Foundation gratefully acknowledges their support.

Pan Gongkai was born in 1947 in Hangzhou, China. He is professor and Chairman of the Chinese Painting Department of the National Art Institute of China in Zhejiang (formerly known as the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts) which is one of the most prestigious art academies in China. Son of Pan Tianshou-one of the most gifted artists of twentieth century China, Pan Gongkai was brought up in a fine artistic and cultural environment. Pan is a scholar who has written extensively on art. In 1992, he received a grant to come to this country to study Western art from first hand sources. In subject matter, he has shown preference for the lotus flower. Many of his paintings are highly conceptual where matter and void play equally important roles as compositional elements.

Tong Zhenguo, who currently lives in San Francisco, has been teaching painting at the National Art Institute of China in Zhejiang (formerly known as the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts) since 1982. Like many artists of his generation, Tong received a solid training in Western painting techniques. Tong’s early works include portraits and figure studies that reveal his mastery of realistic depiction and Western art methods. His more recent works, however, such as the ones in this exhibition, show a departure from his early realistic style. His depictions of human figures are reduced to fluid and rhythmic lines with a minimum suggestion of background. Color is used to infuse substance to the composition and to heighten the feeling of liveliness of the figures. Many of his paintings are thus endowed with vitality, energy, delightfulness and humor.

Zhao Zhunwang, a member of the Chinese Artists Association, was born in Beijing in 1944- and has held many exhibitions in Europe, Asia and the United States. He learned painting from the renowned Chinese artists Yarning, Zheng Ting, and Cui Zifan.
While finding inspiration from past masters, Zhao has been striving to create a style of his own in his landscape paintings. He uses dashing ink washes combined with dots and thin lines to build up the landscape sceneries. Bird’s eye view and a low horizon line are used in some of his works; others are cropped to create a dramatic yet intimate effect. Familiar farm animals such ducks, cows, and chickens remind the viewer of Chinese village life. Zhao’s innovative style serve as example of the new developments that are seen in Chinese painting today.