One of the oldest traditions in Chinese art is in its paintings. One need not look far to see Chinese paintings as they are almost found in everyday items. The most common place where Chinese paintings are seen are on bowls and spoons and such. The earliest Chinese paintings were more ornamental and were not representational. Basically, they are made up of patterns and designs and were primarily painted on pottery items.
If you are able to appreciate the Chinese Calligraphy styles, you will be able to appreciate Chinese paintings. To a certain extent, Chinese paintings differ from contemporary art paintings although today, many artists have injected the Chinese techniques into modern art. This is mainly because the technique is difficult to master while the work can be very amazing.
Chinese painting do not use oil and like calligraphy, they use the technique where the brush is dipped into black or coloured ink and one would usually paint on either paper or silk instead of canvases. Hence, you will still find a lot of Chinese paintings still being sold in rolled-up scrolls.
The earlier form of Chinese paintings were known to have depicted humans during the Han and the Tang eras around 202 to 900 BCs. However, one must be aware that paintings and calligraphy is different in terms of techniques and methods as well as the influences. The end product is the only similarity. Xie He who is the write and art historian during the 5th Century is the person who derived the widely popular ‘6 Principles of Chinese Painting’ which was written around 550 AD.
Chinese paintings would continue to grow in popularity throughout the history of China and today, it is considered to be one of the most challenging art techniques for artists. Basically, Chinese paintings involve the use of characters, animals and sceneries while it could also be a simplistic approach whereby a piece of bamboo could be so well painted that they depict a simple meaning of life. Many Chinese artists today paint their work together with Calligraphy in order to moot a certain message.
It was not until the New Culture Movement that western techniques were adopted by Chinese artists. During the early years of the Republic establishment, Chinese art were moving away from its traditional methods and elements into a more socialist realism era. When the Cultural Revolution happened, the promotion and development of art were halted as schools were closed, publication and exhibitions were prohibited. It was after this era that the movement continued and developed from there. Today, with the opening of the economy and a freer environment within China, the exchange of techniques and methods have pushed Chinese artists to a higher level.
Chinese paintings are no longer regarded just as paintings but they bring about a more conservative and yet modern persona. Artists are louder in their interpretation of political and social issues. Art is no longer about strokes and techniques but the western influence of painting the subject matter has become a common practice.
If in the past, Chinese paintings were considered bland and somewhat monochrome, artists today are apply stronger colours and are more explorative in producing their art. One thing for sure, Chinese artists have not lost those special and amazing painting techniques which they have been popularly known throughout history. They have however, adapted with the contemporary art movement where they are able to move towards a more modern approach to their body of work. The techniques are still very exemplary while their subject matter are bolder.
Other artists have ventured to other artistic mediums that include installations while sculpting has also become a popular mode of expression. After all, China too has a strong and rich history of sculpting through its pottery and ceramic industries.