Tibetan Inspirations


By Wu Ziru

The subject of Tibet has long been the source of inspiration for writers, poets and painters both in and out of China. For Wu Changjiang, the 56-year-old painter who has been devoting himself to depicting landscapes and people's life in the area, Tibet means far more than just the subject of his artistic career.

"I've been fascinated by everything there, not just the beautiful and natural landscape, but also the spirit of people living on this land," Wu told the Global Times in an exclusive interview. "I just find my heart in peace each time I step onto this land," he smiled.

Wu's enthusiasm toward Tibetan people is not confined to Tibet alone, but the whole Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. He has continuously visited the area for almost 30 years and spent time there creating numerous works, some of which have been widely collected by galleries and museums across the world.

His large-scale solo exhibition, Facing Life - Exhibition of Wu Changjiang's Works on Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, will open Thursday at Guan Shanyue Art Museum in Shenzhen, showing a wide range of works Wu created in recent years in Tibet and neighboring areas.

More than 100 pieces will be on display, including prints, watercolors and sketches, all reflecting the landscape and people's life on the plateau. Among the works, most will be figure paintings, according to Wu.

Unlike many painters and photographers who tend to focus on the hardships people on the plateau face, Wu prefers to reflect their positive attitudes toward life and their virtues such as diligence, courage, warm-heartedness and hospitality.

"Some of these virtues have long disappeared for most of us who live in a commercialized world," Wu said. "For my own part, these virtues are of the ideal characteristics I've been pursuing. I think that's part of the reason why I love to be there and paint them."

Born in 1954 in Tianjin, Wu studied at the print department of the China Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) and has been extremely interested in capturing life on the plateau. He has visited more than 30 times since his first trip in 1983.

Most of his works portray the life of herdsmen on the plateau. His stone etchings Milking the Cow and Tibetan Woman and copperplate etchings Son of the Plateau and Pasture in Early Spring have won several printing awards in China and overseas.

Wu's enchantment with the area began during his first visit, when he went there to sketch while he was teaching at CAFA. "That trip changed my life," Wu said. "I found myself in love with the landscape and people living there."

He added that he was captivated by the landscape covered in a dense layer of snow when he awoke one morning. The whiteness was broken only by a tent and several yaks, which were black and formed the strongest contrast that Wu had ever witnessed between the two colors.

"I was deeply moved by the most natural beauty I had never seen and my love toward this land has never stopped," Wu said.

Currently standing vice president of China Artists Association, Wu said that he will continue to visit the plateau to paint when he has time.

Many artists choose to paint Tibetan landscape and life back in their studios, based on their experiences and memories, Wu likes to hold his easel outdoors, capturing the exact moment when he is deeply moved.

His approach is often marred by the weather, as most of the time it is cold and windy. He said that on many occasion, his easel has been blown away by a sudden gust of wind, just as he was about to finish.

"I just love being on the spot," Wu added. "Only through this way can you catch a scene or a feeling about Tibet exactly and directly."

One of the highlights of his solo exhibition will be a large painting titled Unfinished Portrait of a Young Man, which depicts a local Tibetan man, but is unfinished.

Wu said that he had almost finished when the man had something urgent to do and left quickly. Wu smiled and explained that he had thought to destroy it, but then found that the unfinished part of the piece made it even more intact than previous works.

"Just like my fantasy toward Tibetan life, it is still unfinished," Wu said. "I will continue to focus on this subject as long as my physical and mental strengths permit."

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