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Brush up on the past

New exhibition pays tribute to Huang Binhong's dedication to tradition and innovation, which helped initiate a new era for Chinese ink painting, Lin Qi reports.

By Lin Qi | China Daily | Updated: 2024-01-27 10:06
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A painting from Huang Binhong's Flowers Album, on display at the show Immortal Legacy in Beijing.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Nearly seven decades after his death, Huang Binhong's art remains visually unappealing and just as difficult to comprehend as ever for many members of the public. Now hailed as one of the greatest ink artists of 20th-century China, Huang created a distinctive vocabulary of painting.

His landscapes use few colors and rely mostly on varying shades of ink, and his work has sometimes come to be referred to as the "Binhong-style dark". He liked to depict mountains and trees as big circles, or uneven triangles, in messy strokes, and often shaded his subjects in inclined angles, making them look as if they were about to fall down or fall apart.

Huang himself was fully aware that his very individual style was not favored by many people, or even by the market, and foresaw that this would continue for years. Despite this, he never doubted his exploration of the realm of ink, and for people who are fascinated by his art — whether in his time or today — the avant-garde spirit that motivated him to change the Chinese ink tradition has ensured him prominence in Chinese art history.

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