What inspired me to paint like Chinese Art?

Contemporary Chinese Painting with Oil Paint and Chinese Ink (Sume Ink) on wood panel by artist, Lavennz Ooi, inspired by Oriental / Asian Art and ancient Chinese culture, to connect to her Chinese heritage.

I've been enjoying digging and learning the culture of my heritage - Chinese culture lately. As one growing up learning the language of Mandarin Chinese formally and speaking the language natively, I thought I know well about Chinese culture. I'm the second generation of Malaysian Chinese, where both sides of my grandparents were fleeing from China during World War II and Land Reform periods, to start a new life in Malaysia, which was called as Straits Settlements under British colonization.

As the second largest community of overseas Chinese, Malaysian Chinese was known in maintaining their Chinese heritage even though many of them are descendants of earliest Chinese migrants who arrived in between 15th to 17th centuries. With a complete education in the Chinese language and literature, celebrated all sorts of Chinese traditional festival such as Lunar New Year, Duanwu featival, Mid-autumn festival, Qingmin and many more, I thought I knew the culture of my heritage very well. But, I figured out my understanding was just the surface as I was searching through the Chinese culture on the Internet (ahem, my resource isn't very reliable I know, but there's the best place I could learn from where I'm living now).

Sections of   A Thousand Li of Rivers and Mountains   scroll painting by Wang Ximeng.

Sections of A Thousand Li of Rivers and Mountains scroll painting by Wang Ximeng.

It's all started when I learnt about 王希孟 (Wang Ximeng) from a YouTube video, hosted by the renowned Chinese American artist, 陈丹青 (Chen Danqing). Wang Ximeng was born in 1096 and died at young age of 23 in 1119. He is a prodigy and renowned North Song Dynasty palace artist, and A Thousand Li of Rivers and Mountains ( 千里江山图 ) is his only surviving work on an 39 ft long scroll, completed in  1113 when he was 18. The painting is in the permanent collection of the Palace Museum in Beijing.

Through the ups and downs of mountain peaks, the grand river views, the villages and countryside, Wang Ximeng recorded various scenarios happening in that period in this one great masterpiece that took him only half year to complete. The interesting way of contrasting blue and green to depict the majestic landscape became his distinct style.

Court Ladies Preparing Newly-Woven Silk, copy of an 8th century painting by  Zhang Xuan , performed by  Emperor Huizong of Song

Court Ladies Preparing Newly-Woven Silk, copy of an 8th century painting by Zhang Xuan, performed by Emperor Huizong of Song

Wang Ximeng's painting leaded me to search more about Chinese Painting, which end up wondering around Han Chinese traditional clothing 汉服 (Hanfu) and the China's spectacular mountain landscapes. I used to think Cheongsam is Chinese traditional clothing but only found out it was a fashion trend in 20's and 30's, modification from Manchurian's clothing. The types of Han Chinese clothing is list as long as the history of China, also the influential of other traditional clothing like Japanese's Kimono/Yukata and Korean's Hanbok. I'm still researching about Hanfu and I wish I could write a detail story about Hanfu for you in the future.

Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area ( photo credit )

Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area (photo credit)

I never thought the spectacular mountain view we saw in Chinese ink painting or Kungfu's movie can be found in real life, not until lately after I did the research. China's mountain suddenly climb to the top of my travel list. Just look at the picture above, doesn't it looks surreal? While I can't visit there at this moment but I'm amuse to capture my fantasy of these mountains on painting. Hence, combining the inspirations from Wang Ximeng, China's mountains and Hanfu, the painting, 叙旧(Xujiu) was born.

叙旧 (Xujiu, talking about old times), 2018

叙旧 (Xujiu, talking about old times), 2018

Xujiu mean talking about old times, typically use as a verb for old friends gather together to connect and remembering their memories. For me, this painting becoming a kind of xujiu for me and my heritage. It's the beginning of the journey and I could see more paintings of this kind to be created, because I'm too curious about this ancient culture and I'd love to share my findings with you through my works, perhaps it could bring you new perspective.

Are there a specific kind of culture that's really your cup of tea? No matter if it is related to your heritage or if you have mixed heritage background, please tell me in the comment box below. I'd love to hear it!