Among the Jiangsu art circle, I’ve always respected Gao Yun the most, for his outstanding artistic aptitude and energy. It is exactly because of these that he is able to freely shift between his roles as a government official and an artist.
It is well known that Gao Yun rose to fame through picture storybooks. Thirty years ago, the picture storybook Luo Lun to Take the Imperial Exam won the gold prize in the 6th National Art Exhibition and subsequently established his status as the master of picture storybook. Since a decade ago, Gao Yun has moved onto the creation of Chinese figure paintings and has produced many significant works.
Several years ago, Gao Yun’s landscape paintings suddenly began appearing on art exhibitions. It was a surprised to me. Lu Yanshao has once stated, “In the history of painting, good painters of all three categories — landscapes, figures and flowers — always excel the most in flowers and the least in landscapes.” This might also be one of the reasons why contemporary painters who are good at flower and figure paintings seldom engage themselves with landscape paintings. However, Gao Yun is not one of them.
Gao Yun and I, we’ve never had in-depth exchange on issues of landscape paintings. Why he paints landscape and whether his landscapes follow a historical lineage, I do not know. But one thing is for sure. He has spent much time “by himself.” The rigorous techniques, the vigorous spirit, the refinement of the brush and the ink are not the result of some over night endeavor.
Gao Yun had worked in the field of fine arts publishing for a long period of time and “read” countless remarkable paintings. I believe historical lineage to him is not as important. This leads to a considerable difference between Gao Yun and the other landscape painters — less burdens and broader vision. Gao’s landscapes are fresh and have a high level of aesthetics, orderly structure with a delicate style. The subjects are often forms of the Jiangnan landscape. But I’ve noticed that his landscapes certainly do no mimic actuality but originate from his spirituality. To a landscape painter, expressing mountains and valleys through ink and brush is a fundamental ability. But the spirit presented through the work depends on the painter’s cultivation and mentality. Gao Yun’s landscapes impart a tremendous momentum. Figurative lines are done by centered-tip brush movements that bear a quality of vigour. His rocks and groves obey the pattern of nature, thus they are depicted with variations in the light and heavy, weaving pauses and turns. Above all, the pyramid-like mountain, which is symbolic, struck me. The ridges and peaks of such a “magnificence” deliver a feeling of calm and stability, which fully shows the painter’s inner spiritual world. This is without a doubt an important paradigm, as well as an individualistic symbol in Gao Yun’s landscape painting.
The broadness of his experience and the multifariousness of Gao Yun’s creative practice provide him with choices and possibilities in his future exploration of landscape painting. The profound thinking, witty insights, perseverance and experience bequeathed only by time give us all the reasons to look forward to the next pinnacle of Gao Yun’s artistic journey.
Sept 23, 2013