Asian Pacific Art Institute of America
A TORCHBEARER OF THE MODERN LITERATI TRADITION
M.A. ART HISTORY, UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS
When Mu JiaShan studied painting in the early 1980s at the Nanjing Art Institute , traditional Chinese, “Literati” painting, arguably a most illustrious tradition of Chinese culture, was declared by many to be at a “dead end”. Almost a century after the introduction of European art into Chinese art school curriculums as well as the hugely successful assimilation of Soviet style art in to the vernacular of both Chinese graphic and fine arts, traditional Chinese painting was not getting the attention at the time that this beloved tradition indeed deserved.
Fortunately, Nanjing and the whole of the Jiangsu region was a fertile place for “Literati” or scholar painting to begin reasserting itself. Mountains and valleys, rice paddies and fish ponds, and mulberry bushes on which silkworms dine, the region is an ideal backdrop for an observant Literati artist. Jiangsu also lies in the shadow of the famous Mt. Huangshan (Yellow Mountain) and was home to the notable modern painter and scholar Shi Tao , Gong Xian, Huang Binhong, and Fu BaoShi. The cultural climate in this region is more provincial, its residents are ease with the charm and wisdom of traditional customs, as opposed to more cosmopolitan centers, like neighboring Shanghai. There was less self-consciousness in Jiangsu for creating that which was modern.
At the Art Institute of Nanjing Mu JiaShan, a Jiangsu native born in Lian Yun Gang in 1961, was fortunate to continue his boyhood painting studies with teacher Chen Da Yu who himself was the pupil of Qi BaiShi. Qi, a beloved and prolific early 20th century painter, is famous for his whimsical brushwork and casual compositions. Mu JiaShan obviously took his educational lineage seriously as he too has become an accomplished student of the relaxed, “expressionist” tradition set forth by Qi and Chen. There is an ease, which tumbles onto the pages of Mu JiaShan’s compositions. We can imagine the work of Mu JiaShan would make the early modern masters smile. Indeed, the paintings of Mu JiaShan are scenes that always attempt to make the viewer feel positive or upbeat.
Mu JiaShan’s work expresses a studied respect for the fluidity and variation possible with the Chinese brush. He boldly combines washes, dots, dry lines and detailed lines throughout his painting. We are left with confidence that our painter is comfortable with his brush and we are, as viewers, able to delve more deeply into the whimsy of the composition and by extension, the personality of the artist. Mu JiaShan is a very happy person, who paints daily and enjoys sharing his love for landscape painting with as many viewers as possible. He is keenly interested in making his painting accessible and international.
As with his brushwork, Mu JiaShan is a virtuoso of composition. We see lovely landscapes, bird and flower, figure painting and of course, calligraphy throughout the work of Mu’s long career. The landscapes of Mu JiaShan are of special interest. They pay homage to the landscape traditions of the Yuan Dynasty Literati as well as the abstractions of the later Ming and Qing painters. Mountains will pile up on top of mountains to create the “monumental” style of Chinese landscape painting. The works is always well balanced with an interesting array of lines and shapes for the viewer to trace and discover. Mu JiaShan’s paintings are true to his own playful spirit and easy approach to obtaining happiness.
Mu JiaShan is always paying his respect to the Literati tradition in Chinese art, making references to the past, but forging ahead with his own style, allowing his own view of the world come through the composition and brushwork. His landscapes are whimsical, however, they also often feel familiar.
Mu JiaShan, along with many painters in the modern “Literati” style, seriously and quite correctly consider their work to be a part of the international style of painting. The new lines are bolder. The lines are less representational and the paintings have a casual attitude overall. These techniques are part of a Chinese “expressionism”, which like French expressionism, ushered in a new era of modern art.
Mu has had his work published in a long list of publications. These have included: Treasuries of Chinese Painting published by China Pictorial, Jiangsu Art Monthly, Wen Hui Daily (Hong Kong) ,Ink Painting Journal (Japan),and the China Fine Art Journal. Mu also had the great honor of having eight of his paintings turned into postcards by the China Postal Service where they were widely produced and sold quite well to the public.
Like the “Literati” artists before him, Mu JiaShan carries on the traditions of studying, teaching and acting as a torchbearer of Chinese culture. Mu Jia Shan moved to the United States in 1995. He has been able to use the opportunity to promote Chinese art and culture quite fully. The role of an “ambassador” to Chinese painting in the United States is one that Mu is deeply honored and pleased to conduct. The Chinese Embassy in the United States has indeed given Mu the title of “Chinese Cultural Envoy”. He does this outreach work with the same joy with which he paints.
A large part of Mu’s work in the United States has included lecturing, teaching and giving demonstrations to the public. A short and incomplete list of the schools at which Mu JiaShan has lectured include: Yale University, Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Maryland, Williams College, Nanjing University and the Shanghai Theatre Academy.
A culmination of Mu JiaShan’s work in the United States has been his opening of The Asia Pacific Art Institute of America in 1998. Mu has used the Institute to sponsor concerts of Chinese musicians, to organize exhibits of Chinese American and Asian American artists, Chinese calligraphy and of course, teaching. This work is a continuation of the promotion of modern Literati artists that Mu was dedicated to while he lived in Nanjing. While still in China, Mu, among other achievements, recommend a large group of artists for shows in Hong Kong. Mu JiaShan has also given a number of interviews to television and radio programs which have included: CCTV (China), Ashai Shimbun (Japan), VOA (USA), Changxun TV (Hong Kong) and Fox Television (USA).
Mu JiaShan has become a distinguished professional artist living very successfully in the United States. His contributions to Chinese culture abroad make him a significant figure in the more recent moves toward for recognizing the achievements in contemporary Asian art in the West. The 7 works chosen for this book were all done in the last several years during which time Mu has had the title of “Cultural Envoy”. He still conveys an inspirational and happy expression with references to Chinese art history throughout the work. We can still see the quaint scenery of the Jiangsu region influencing his work.
《Generation of famous Artist》 January 1,2006
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