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Photographer's work a mix of shooting and Chinese painting

By Li Hongru (Chinadaily.com.cn)    14:47, May 15, 2017
Photographer's work a mix of shooting and Chinese painting
Xia Tiangong's work shown at the exhibition at the Shang Ba Art Gallery, Beijing, May 13, 2017. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

By just looking at the work of photographer Xia Tiangong, most people have a hard time identifying whether they are pictures or Chinese ink paintings.

The landscapes portrayed in his masterpieces, taken with a camera, bear a Zen-Buddhist style, reflecting a simple, clear and clean method. Sometimes, the places captured in certain pieces look as if they were places of where the gods would stay in traditional Chinese myths.

"Since there were no birds, I added some into the piece to make the scene more alive," Xia said, while introducing one of his works to an audience at the opening ceremony of his solo exhibition at the Shang Ba Art Gallery in Beijing on Saturday.

There are four traditional elements in Chinese painting: poems, calligraphy, seal cutting and painting. To Xia, his works represents a fifth element: the art of photography. He had his photos printed on Chinese painting paper, then added with calligraphy and seal cuttings, following the normal process of traditional Chinese ink paintings. 


Xia, a former television producer, majored in seal cutting at the China Central Academy of Fine Arts. Because of this, seal engraving and calligraphy has been a long-time interest and expertise of the photographer. Xia took an interest in photography when he was just a teenager; however, he did not buy his first digital camera until 2009.

"My photos are works of art. I intend to put more creative elements in them, rather than use them to show reality," Xia said.

"So, unlike other photographers, I choose to shoot things which accord to my artistic taste."

The exhibition, which was held at the Shang Ba Art Gallery, showcased his photographic work in two categories: Chinese ink painting styles and those blended with modern art.

According to curator Susan Wang, the exhibition took two years to prepare.

While the typical painter could work safely at their own home, Xia's work and talent can come with challenges.

Recently, the photographer met a landslide while taking photos of snow on a mountain, and the event was almost life-ending.

"At that dangerous moment, my only thought was that my death shouldn't come so early. It should not happen," Xia, who spoke to China Daily Website, said.

Art critic Rasko Radovic also said Xia's work was "painted with a camera instead of a brush".

"They make us realize 'typical' Chinese landscapes, from the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and onward , which may appear to us as products of imagination, are, in fact, deeply rooted in reality from which they only take what is essential, something I myself discovered once on a visit to the Taishan Mountain," he said.

In Rasko's eyes, he said Xia "extracted the very idea" of the sceneries and made them "more real than they are in reality".

Xia has also won applause from other professional artists, critics and photographers.

Zhu Xianmin, council member of the China Photographers Association, attended the opening ceremony, and praised the meaning conveyed in Xia's work.

"We are in an era of images, and anyone can take photos," he said.

"There are so many photos being produced every day, yet not all of them come from great minds and smart eyes."

"Xia's pictures let me see something valuable –the value of traditional Chinese arts."

Art critics and photographers who also attended the ceremony, included Zhang Zikang, deputy director of the National Art Museum of China, Hou Jun, deputy editor-in-chief of the Shen Zhen Press Group, Xue Rongping, counsellor of the Shang Ba International Art Center, and Wang Danyan, professor of the School of Arts of Peking University.

The exhibition will run until May 20, 2017.


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(Web editor: Hu Ximeng, Bianji)

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