History of Sumi-e – Chinese Ink and Wash Painting and Sumi-e in the 21st Century


The Contemporary Arts Movement in China

In 1985, Chinese art critic Li Xiaoshan stated in his article “My View of Contemporary Chinese Painting” (Dangdai zhongguohua zhi wojian) that ink and wash painting (Link: Basic Information article) had reached a “dead end”. Indeed the question for modern ink painters has been how to define “Chinese painting” (中国画zhongguohua) or “national painting” (国画guohua). In the last decades it is has not only been the question how to define “Chinese” and which place ink and wash painting takes in nowadays art world. It has become common to try and categorize ink and wash painting created after the Cultural Revolution into types like customary, expressionist, documentary, or experimental; each one according to the techniques or traditions they use and are based on. Since the end of the Cultural Revolution, however, Chinese art has been interfused with other genres such as performance, photography and video, with artists being occupied with more than one field of artistic interest. Dividing contemporary Chinese painting into four dogmatic categories thus proves to be a problem, especially since growing globalism in the art world pushed the amalgamation of art even further.

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