Innovations from South of the Clouds

August 17 – September 22, 1996
Generally speaking, the painting tradition in China has evolved subtly
and incrementally over hundreds of years. The characteristics of Chinese
painting are usually discussed in terms of strength and techniques of the brush,
quality of spirit and essence, and poetry imagery. More often than not, traditional
works also include poetic or prosaic colophons, and seal impressions. While
certain eccentric personalities punctuated the stylistic orthodoxy of this tradition,
very few schools of painting gained peer recognition through radical
differentiation from this relatively conservative mainstream.

This mold was shattered approximately 30 years ago when two painters,
Ting Shao Kuang and Jiang Tiefeng, held an exhibition of works in Beijing which
celebrated the customs and lives of the ethnic minorities who inhabit China’s
subtropical southwestern province of Yunnan. This innovative artistic
exploration soon gave explosion to an entire style of painting which came to be
known as the Yunnan School. Since that time, the Yunnan School of painting has
gained critical international acclaim and established itself firmly in the artistic
lexicon of both East and West. Its stylistic vocabulary and topical themes are
characterized by uniformity in line work, bold usage of overlapping geometric
designs and colors, and subjects centered around the indigenous people and
historical myths of Yunnan province. Also popular is the employment of art
motifs found on ancient bronzes of the region.

Exemplified by the serigraph works of Ting Shao Kuang, many works by
Yunnan artists also display affinities with the western traditions. Ting
admittedly claimed to be an admirer of both Monet and Giacometti, and their
influences can be detected in Ting’s elongated figures and bold color radations.
One might also attribute a general influence of the cubist movement. The more
representative works by the other Yunnan artists show greater concern for
realism, as indicated by techniques of perspective and proportion, and the
adoption of chiaroscuro.

The Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco is pleased to present this
exhibition of paintings from the Yunnan School in co-sponsorship with Nan Hai
Arts Center of Millbrae. Additional funding support has been provided in part by
the Publicity and Advertising Fund’s Hotel Tax/Grants for the Arts Program.