Hanxiang Zhao - Master in the Art of Chinese Ink Painting
Author: James Ziffirelli
Hanxiang Zhao is an artist who has exceptional skills in the art of Chinese ink painting and has developed his own unique style that blends contemporary elements and composition with the traditional techniques of brush and ink. The art of brush and ink painting (guo hua) is considered one of the highest forms of art in China and is associated with calligraphy, the artistic form of writing with brush and ink. Traditional ink painting involves essentially the same techniques and is done with a brush and ink or colored pigments. While so much of Western art is based on oil and acrylic paints, Chinese art is based on water soluble inks and special brushes made of animal hair for a simplicity in the tools that are used. Like watercolor painting, the method of direct application upon silk or soft paper excludes all possibility of correcting or painting over, so each painting delivers its own freshness and vitality.
In Hanxiang Zhao's paintings, you can see that he often combines many brush styles in the same painting. Two of the traditional styles are "Gong-bi", meaning meticulous, the detailed fine brushstrokes, and "Shui-mo" or "Xie yi", the freehand style of ink and wash painting, often called "literati painting". He will also add his own personal styles, making each piece a unique piece of art reflecting the humanistic spirit of what he is painting, not just a visual likeness of what he sees. He likes to work with vibrant ink colors and mix together abstract and realistic shapes which are harmonious, yet expressively used to capture the subject, movement, and texture of what he is painting. In his series, "Prosperity As a Dream", you can see the detail of the flowers, the lines in the petals, and the realistic representation of the chrysanthemum flower pods that are sending off new seeds into the air as a symbol of prosperity - all against an abstract background of leaves and foliage. In his "Dream to a Wild Mountain" series, you can see the texture of the rocky mountain face and the detailed brush work in the colorful tree foliage against an ambient sky of ink wash that gives an effect of fog and distance.
When looking at some of Hanxiang Zhao's more traditional ink paintings, you can see how effectively and minimally he uses the brush to express his subject in just a few brush strokes. This allows the viewer to fill in the rest of the information and feel the emptiness of the blank space which becomes an integral part of the painting. Laurence Binyon, the 20th century British art historian, described Chinese ink art: "The artist closely observes and stores his observations in his memory. He conceives the design, and having completed the mental image of what he intends to paint, he transfers it swiftly and with sure strokes to the silk. The qualities prized by the Chinese in a small ink-painting of bamboos, a favorite subject alike with beginners and masters, are those prized in a piece of fine handwriting, only there is added a keen appreciation of the simultaneous seizure of life and natural character in the subject. It is said that in a master's work 'the idea is present even where the brush has not passed.' And this emphasis on the value of suggestion, of reserves and silences, is important to notice, because no other art has understood like the Chinese how to make empty space a potent factor in the design."
Hanxiang Zhao was born in 1964, and graduated from Wuhan Textile University (Wuhan Textile Institute of Technology). He is a national first-class artist, guest Professor at Wuhan Textile University, Honorary Chairman of China's Ruzhou Artists Association, Special Advisor of SCO One Belt One Road Silk Road Culture China-Uzbekistan, Deputy Director of Calligraphy and Painting, Review Committee of Guangdong Collectors Association, and China Post Stamp Album Art Consultant.