Water Garden For A Blue Heron

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A visit to China 1000 years ago will find you in the Sung Dynasty, a period of unequalled landscape painting. The emperor had established an academy for artists. Painting and calligraphy were deeply connected. Gestures of the brush revealed energy, movement, and meaning whether making pictures or Mandarin letter/characters. Practiced and diversified brush handling determined success.
Looking at their motifs and the brushwork can inspire us today. As you will see I was inspired to borrow attitudes, titling, brushwork and themes from these antique painting masters.
Wen T’ung of the Sung Dynasty shows us delicate and facile brushwork in his expression of turning bamboo leaves (example 1) made in ink. A half century later an anonymous artist painted this fan shaped image of Egrets over Water Reeds (example 2). Here we again see similar brushwork evoking the feeling of the leaves of water reeds but, deeper space is created by overlapping the foreground flora over the paler, smaller, distant, and different set of grasses

Example 1. Wen T’ung of the Sung Dynasty,

Example 2. Anonymous, Egrets Over Water Reeds,

Two centuries after Wen T’ung’s painting Chao Meng-Chien would create a long horizontal scroll of narcissus bending in a breeze (example 3). The gentle overlapping Narcissus fronds interweave like a loosely woven basket. And, in example 4 from Ni Zan of the 14th century I present a vertical landscape apparently divided into two discreet areas. The absence of information in the mid-zone was deliberate and intended to be read as great poetic space.

Example 3. Chao Meng-Chien, Narcissus 13th century,

Example 4, Ni Zan, 14th century,

My own painting examples will borrow and newly contextualize these Chinese ideas. I will also use what later 20th century Chinese painters call “heavy color”. In the 1950’s Maoist artists relied on strong (or heavy) color and sharp outlines to help with the reproduction of their paintings into poster form.
Example 5 illustrates my first step, an abstract expressionist mélange of colors which will be further delineated into smaller defined patterns and lines as you see in step two, Example 6. Example 6 presents an image with an area of absence toward the top before finally defining the distant horizon as seen in Ni Zan’s work. I use the Maoist heavy color system of the 1950’s to create a strong graphic effect. I use the overlapping shape systems of the Anonymous “Egrets over Reeds” artist and, I use the more compressed spatial system seen in Chao Meng-Chien’s Narcissus. I even ventured to title this work in a manner reminiscent of the poetic titling system of the Chinese.

Example 5. Step one of “Water Garden for a Blue Heron”

Example 6. Step two (present state) of “Water Garden for a Blue Heron”,

My final example also relies on the theme of a cultivated meditative garden. Example 7 “In the Jade Water Garden” more obviously uses an analogous or, limited palette with varieties of stroke marks to indicate density and diversity of flora.

Example 7. “In a Jade Water Garden” an oil on brushed silver enameled laminated aluminum,

I have a solo exhibition on view at the White Gallery 342 Main Street in Lakeville, Ct The gallery is open Fridays through Sundays and by appt. for other hours and information tel: 860 435 1029 or thewhitegalleryart.com

I invite you to join me this year for Jerry’s Artarama’s tradeshow and workshops at their Art of The Carolinas in November (9th -11th) in Raleigh Durham NC. I have three workshops to offer you. My Friday workshop FR1807 is “New Affects and Ancient Sources for Painting in oil/wc/and Acrylic. My Saturday workshop SA1807 is “Nature Up Close” in oil/wc/and acrylic. My Sunday workshop SU1807 is “Cities in Motion, Bridging Realism and Abstraction”. A more fulsome description is available through Jerry’s Artarama Art of the Carolinas website. Or on daviddunlop.com. Try www.artofthecarlinas.com/all-media-workshops. Also, for the complete description of my workshops you can visit this website but, under the category of “Classes and Events” on the homepage.

  1. Barbara Hamill

    Hey David, Barbara Hamill here. Just in case you noticed me missing in your Tuesday AM class last week, I will also miss tomorrow and will be there from next week on. I am baby sitting Cora and Teddy in Virginia while my son and his wife are in Africa. What is wrong with this picture???

    P.S. I do not have a good email for you so I am using this blog to reach you.

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