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Realistic, redolent of China

By Zhang Zixuan (China Daily)

09:47, July 20, 2012

Wang Yidong's representative works include (clockwise from above) Playing in the Bridal Chamber - Auspicious Smoke, The Pomegranate Is Ripe and Sound of Summer.

One of the country's most iconic painters, Wang Yidong emphasizes both technique and tradition. Zhang Zixuan reports in Beijing.

The bride's red quilted jacket and trousers stand out among the blue and gray-colored throng, enlivening the snowy mountain scene. As a child growing up in the Yimeng Mountain area of Shandong province, artist Wang Yidong memorized this scene and has repeatedly portrayed the girl in red on canvas. For example, at the upcoming 2012 Chinese Oil Painting Art Exhibition in London, Wang portrays a teenage girl in a red vest eating a ripe pomegranate. The painting's name, The Pomegranate is Ripe, is a play on words that indicates the girl's coming of age. The 57-year-old recalls the poverty of his hometown by recounting the story of his fifth uncle's wedding, when the fish dish at the center of the table was an imitation made of wood, with a coating of real sauce. But the country's leading Realistic artist believes poverty actually preserves tradition, which he defines as the "thick accretion of culture". Wang's relatives and his rural mountain scenes, and especially girls from the countryside in red clothes, have become the painter's signature subjects.

"I am a man. There is nothing more natural than appreciating feminine beauty," he says.

Wang's exceptional painting skills are due in part to seven years of training at Shandong Art School and then the Central Academy of Fine Arts during the 1970s and 1980s.

And even though he is aware of the huge variety of contemporary art forms, Wang sticks to Realism.

He rejects the idea of distancing himself from his audience and refuses to "be manipulated by the market or trends of thought".

"Painting can never abandon technique," he says, adding that great artworks touch the viewer because the underlying technique is outstanding.

Wang says the more he paints, the more difficult Realism is, for him.

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